Mind my business?
June 12, 2007 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Would it make me a complete jerk for calling animal control on a dog who goes unleashed on it's walks in an urban neighborhood because the woman who owns it is older and walks very slowly a block behind him?

I feel like a jerk for even asking this. This dog (a pitbull, not being biased against them- this is just so you know the size) runs free on it's walks because it's owner is an elderly woman with a walker. When anyone walks their dog in the neighborhood and this dog sees it, it will go out of it's way to come over. I have never seen it attack, but I feel like it is an accident waiting to happen. What if it startles someones dog and a fight breaks out? The owner is usually a good 1/2 block away, and has to walk slowly, so it isn't like she could do anything. I have had it come after my tiny dog (who is leashed) on several occations, but I will just pick her up and walk away with the other dog following me untill the owner calls it back (it doesn't always come when called either). It is sometimes a little scary- having a random dog following you jumping up behind you to check out your dog. I have said something to her on several occations, but she just ignores me. I know it is the law where we live that all dogs must be leashed. So, should I just let it go and mind my own business or do I call animal control? Please don't hate me for asking this, I know she can't keep up with her dog, but there are so many children and other dogs in the area it just can't be safe...
posted by MayNicholas to Pets & Animals (61 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call them. A law's a law, even for old folks.
posted by tristeza at 3:20 PM on June 12, 2007

Let me rephrase.....if there's no other recourse (i.e. she tells you to fuck off, or can't hear or whatever).
posted by tristeza at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2007

Yes, it would make you a jerk to call Animal Control, if you don't say anything to the woman first, or if you don't have a dog that itself is threatened by her dog.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2007

You should talk sternly to the owner about it, and tell her that if she doesn't leash her dog (maybe she should hire a dog walker?) you will call animal control. I was attacked by a large unleashed dog in my neighborhood in high school, and it's following the law isn't something to feel jerky about.
posted by muddgirl at 3:28 PM on June 12, 2007

Whether or not it makes you a jerk you may have to do this if the owner is unresponsive to being asked.
posted by edgeways at 3:29 PM on June 12, 2007

It's not really up to any one person or entity to say what type of dogs an elderly person should own, but come on... a pit bull? She needs a pet that keeps her pace and if she's unwilling to leash her dog, regardless of its nature, she shouldn't have one. On the other hand, if the dog gets taken from her and she either can't or won't take it back, then that is another animal taking up city space, which probably means it will get put to sleep if no one takes it... something to check up on if that concerns you.

Maybe you could make a leash appear on her doorstep with a big bow on it or offer a phone number for a dog walker?
posted by pontouf at 3:30 PM on June 12, 2007

the last thing an elderly person needs is unexpected expenses. why not offer to walk the dog for her?
posted by elle.jeezy at 3:33 PM on June 12, 2007

No, you're not a complete jerk, and while I love pitbulls and think that the bad reputation they get is ridiculous, they do tend to have a higher degree of dog-aggression than other breeds (they were bred for fighting going back as far as Elizabethan times, after all), and it's simply irresponsible ownership to walk one through a neighborhood off-leash.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:34 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: I have said something to her three different times. Once nicely, the other two times pretty sternly. She will just look at me and then call her dog back (sometimes it listens, sometimes it doesn't). I do have a small dog that it comes after whenever it sees it and it tends to follow me after I have picked her up and jumps up behind me trying to get a good whiff of her, which in turn frightens my dog and makes her squirmy.

I would hate to think the dog would get put down, but I would also hate to think someone else gets hurt because of the dog. That is why I am torn on this one.
posted by MayNicholas at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2007

Yes, you'd be an enormous jerk.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2007

Buy her a leash. When you give it to her, tell her to use it or you are going to call animal control. She obviously does not have control over the dog, and yes it is an accident waiting to happen. A leash isn't just for the safety of others, it is for the safety of the dog itself. What if it runs into the street and gets hit, or startles a bigger, meaner dog?

You've said something to her three times and she has given you no reason to sympathize with her.
posted by Loto at 3:44 PM on June 12, 2007

It would be lovely if you could offer to walk the dog for her. Or with her. Or suggest a service for her. Surely there are lots of options before calling Animal Control. Obviously you are right to be concerned about your own and other dogs, as well as children, but it seems like there are ways to handle this that are less harsh for all parties involved (including Animal Control, which in most cities is pretty overburdened).
posted by judith at 3:44 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think you'd be a jerk. I was bit by a dog the owner swore was nice and didn't need to be leashed. Doesn't matter if the lady is old, she needs to control her dog.
posted by look busy at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2007

Come on, you don't get a free pass on responsible dog ownership just because you're elderly! I knew an older lady like this who got reported several times (in NZ). The dog wasn't put down, but she was made to put a muzzle on it.
posted by Pigpen at 3:50 PM on June 12, 2007

Get her a leash and a number for a dog walker or offer to work with others in the neighborhood/building to set up a dog-walking schedule. I would explain why the dog being loose concerns you - that it is a potential danger to other dogs and to children or to itself, not because it is mean, or that it is any particular type of dog, but because dogs can run out into the street or misinterpret a child's body language, or accidentally harm another, smaller dog, without actually being malicious per se. And also tell her that while you are trying to be helpful, you also have to be a responsible member of your community, and if she's not going to help you help her, then you're going to have to talk to Animal Control.

It's not being jerky, it's being responsible.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2007

Even though I was reported for letting my dogs play fetch off leash in a park last week *shakes fist* , I'll enthusiasticaly join the chorus and say you should report her.

This particular situation, especially if there is really an entire block between the dog and its owner, is, as you observed, a disaster waiting for a place to happen.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:57 PM on June 12, 2007

I'm always one for making something of a public spectacle under such circumstances: "RESTRAIN YOUR DOG, MADAM. MADAM, RESTRAIN YOUR DOG," etc.

My guess is that you don't have to worry about the lady losing the dog as a result of your actions -- we're talking about a leash-law citation here most likely and not a vicious dog complaint. At least in my community the latter is a pretty far stretch even for a documented person-biter.

Getting someone out to deal with the situation may be a bit more difficult (thereby my approach) depending on how your community services work. Best to call Animal Control and see what they suggest, but this could involve calling down the cops on the lady instead. I know out in my 'hood, they won't come out unless you've got a in-progress Cujo situation.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:08 PM on June 12, 2007

Buy the leash idea is good, or something. Just Do it quickly. If it doesn't work very quickly, report her. ASAP. I have 6 yr old twins who have between them been traumatized by dogs chasing or jumping up on them, at a rate of about 1 incident per month. I am a dog lover, but am sick to death of my boys being chased by dogs. If I hear one more dog owner justify this behaviour with 'he just wants to play', 'he's a good dog', 'he's just a puppy' or 'do you want to pat him?', I'm going to explode. I wish more people would report so that owners would get this message loud and clear Before a kid gets mauled or traumatized ('but he's never been a problem before'!).
posted by kch at 4:08 PM on June 12, 2007

She's being incredibly irresponsible. And rude, too, since she's not responsive to your (apparently polite, perfectly reasonable) requests. If you call animal control before the horrible thing that's just waiting to happen actually happens, it's highly unlikely they'll take the dog away from her. More likely, she'll be ticketed, or issued a stern warning. If that's enough to get her to keep the dog under control, you'll be doing a good deed.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wait, you're saying that the more children and dogs are in the area, the more dangerous the dog becomes? That it "just can't be" safe? Why not? By your own admission the dog has not demonstrated any violent tendencies.
posted by rhizome at 4:12 PM on June 12, 2007

rhizome writes "That it "just can't be" safe? Why not? "

Because it is not under the control (leash or verbal) of a responsible person. That's pretty much the definition of an unsafe dog.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:20 PM on June 12, 2007

What if a young child harasses the dog? What if the dog encounters a properly leashed but poorly socialized or dog-aggressive dog. It's an accident waiting to happen.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:21 PM on June 12, 2007

This is easy.

Would it make me a complete jerk for calling animal control on a dog who goes unleashed

The answer here is "Of course not." All the other stuff is window dressing, especially if you've asked nicely before.

on it's walks in an urban neighborhood

This would only add to the "Of course not."

because the woman who owns it is older and walks very slowly a block behind him?

If she's not capable of taking care of the dog, she should give it up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:31 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: Well I think getting her a leash is a moot point as she needs both hands on her walker and the dog is clearly stronger than her. (Not being snarky, just pointing out what seems to be the case) I will research dog walking services in the area- but what if I try to approach the woman (with a list of the services) and the dog takes it as a threath to it's owner? Is that something that could happen?
posted by MayNicholas at 4:34 PM on June 12, 2007

Are you sure she could hear you? From your description, it sort of sounds like maybe she didn't fully hear.

My opinion is that it's okay to call and you are not being a jerk since you've spoken with her. I grew up on a street where big dogs ran after me and sometimes jumped on me, just like what you're talking about. I'm now petrified of dogs as a result. Leash laws exist for a reason and they should be obeyed, it doesn't matter how old you are or how friendly or what size your dog is.
posted by ml98tu at 4:37 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: She heard me, she was about 5 feet from me one of the times.
posted by MayNicholas at 4:46 PM on June 12, 2007

rhizome: being jumped on and played with by a friendly dog can be pretty terrifying (and injurious) if the dog happens to outweigh you. That would have applied throughout most of my childhood - and such an incident explains why to this day, I do not like dogs.
posted by ysabet at 4:48 PM on June 12, 2007

As someone who walks a large dog (on leash) that is agressive towards other dogs (at least, when he's on-leash), I sincerely hope that you report her. Unleashed dogs approaching me while walking is a very dangerous situation for myself, my dog and for the approaching dog. If either of our dogs were to get hurt because her dog wasn't under control (as required by law) then I would be VERY upset.

This exact thing happened to a friend of mine who also has a dog that is agressive towards other dogs- he was walking her on-leash when 2 off-leash dogs appraoched and decided to fight when she acted agressively.

If those dogs had been on-leash it would have been an easily controllable situation, but as it happened my friend was put at great risk trying to separate the 3 dogs, and all 3 of the dogs were seriously injured. The dogs in question were not known to be ones that were agressive- they likely simply responded instinctively. One of them was put down as a result of the fight. Hopefully their owner learned just how important it is to walk your usually-peaceful dog on-leash.

Dogs off-leash are at much greater risk for things like causing car accidents and disturbing wildlife in addition to all of the other human-related risks that others have posted. The risks are to both themselves and the other involved parties.

When walking a small dog (as you describe), I've had the unpleasant experience of having a large, unleashed dog put his paws on my shoulders (I'm 6' tall) while investigating the small dog that I was holding. It would have been trivial for that dog to have knocked me over (accidentally or not) as well as to have gotten me very dirty with it's paws, or whatever it decided to do.

Don't feel that you are being a jerk by calling if you've made other efforts to remedy the situation. There's a reason that dog leash and licensiing laws exist. Sadly, some perople can't safely own some dogs.
posted by Four Flavors at 5:19 PM on June 12, 2007

She probably has a dog for protection. Obviously it has to be walked, but she can't do it with a walker. I think a muzzle is probably the best solution; I'd buy one and suggest that if the dog doesn't wear it, you will inform the authorities.

It doesn't prevent the dog racing up to you, but at least there's no chance of serious injury to anyone.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

"inform the authorites that her dog is off leash all the time"
posted by oneirodynia at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2007

No, you are not a jerk. Report this dangerous situation.

It would be lovely if you could offer to walk the dog for her.

Jesus Christ. No, you go walk the dog for her, since you're so full of the milk of human kindness. Fly out if you have to. What, you don't love dogs enough to do that? Then don't tell other people how to allocate their time and energy.

posted by languagehat at 5:43 PM on June 12, 2007 [12 favorites]

Wait, you're saying that the more children and dogs are in the area, the more dangerous the dog becomes? That it "just can't be" safe? Why not? By your own admission the dog has not demonstrated any violent tendencies.

How is everyone supposed to know that? You see a dog running toward you, off leash, no human in sight- you're going to assume it's a wild dog, and who knows what it could do to you, your children, or your leashed dog. I was walking in the village in NYC late one night, when I came upon an unleashed pit bull walking along the sidewalk, and my chest immediately tightened. I tried to stay calm so as not to spook the dog. Right as we were parallel, someone waaay down the block called for the dog, and the dog went running. Totally terrifying. A leash is not just a way to control your dog, it is a sign to others that your dog is under control.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

A less snarky version of the "don't walk her dog for her" arguement: She is old and using a walker. This dog may be the only reason she leaves the house on a regular basis. Offer her a leash if you want, but just call animal control so they can give her a properly enforcable warning.
posted by nursegracer at 5:52 PM on June 12, 2007

A "friendly hello" from a large off-leash dog made me deathly afraid of all dogs for most of my childhood. Even as the least objectionable of all the possible negative outcomes of a dog being off its leash, the deathly fear was still not so great.

An elderly woman who needs a walker has no business walking a pit bull by herself. Even if she had the dog on a leash, she would probably not be able to hold it back if it got aggressive or excited. I'm guessing she walk(ers) the dog off-leash because she knows this already.

If you're worried about Animal Control taking the dog and eventually having to put it down, perhaps you could first check to see if there's a pit bull rescue organization anywhere near you. They may be able to give you some helpful leash-law information to pass along to your neighbor, or could help find the dog a home if she needs to give it up.
posted by bluishorange at 6:03 PM on June 12, 2007

No, it won't make you a complete jerk at all, and I am not just saying this because I think pit bulls should be on leashes. I'm saying this because if you call animal control, you can remain anonymous. I've done this. My oldest son is scared of large dogs (he was jumped on once by an aggressive dog) and we have a leash law. Frankly, when it comes to my kids, I don't care if people think I'm a jerk. I don't ask to be anonymous, that's just their policy here.

A couple people wrote simply, "yes, it would make you a jerk," and I would really like to hear why because 1) it's not helpful without a reason, and 2) I'm wondering how many are dog owners who don't leash their dogs.
posted by misha at 6:13 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: "If you're worried about Animal Control taking the dog and eventually having to put it down, perhaps you could first check to see if there's a pit bull rescue organization anywhere near you. "

I like this idea, thank you. I will see what is in my area. I feel badly for her, but I also feel it is so irresponsible of her to own him if she can't walk him properly.
posted by MayNicholas at 6:14 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: I can't seem to find any resources in our area for pitbull rescue. I'll try to call animal control in the am and ask them if they know of any (before mentioning any sort of complaint- that would be another call completely).
posted by MayNicholas at 6:33 PM on June 12, 2007

In my last neighborhood there was an elderly disabled man who walked his dog on-leash while he (the man) rode on an electric scooter. In my prior neighborhood, an elderly lady with a cane walked her Schnauzer on-leash; when she had hip surgery and started using a walker, she had a neighbor walk her dog.

It is perfectly reasonable to require that this woman walk her dog on-leash. You say she does not respond when you talk to her from five feet away. That's not really close; maybe she felt threatened or intimidated, or is hard of hearing. Can you can try once more, get closer, at a time when you are not walking your own dog? Perhaps you could even ask her, "Excuse me, please, can you stop and talk with me for a minute about your dog?" If she still refuses to answer and you then call Animal Control, you certainly are not a jerk.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:49 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: I spoke with my mother about this and now I really feel like a jerk. She said to just leave it be and walk my dog at a different time. Ouch...
posted by MayNicholas at 6:53 PM on June 12, 2007

Not to derail, languagehat, but "it would be lovely if you could offer" isn't the same as "telling people how to allocate their time and energy". Clearly everyone wants the best possible outcome for the poster, her dog, the other woman, her dog and the rest of the universe. The poster asked for options. Your snarkiness was not helpful.
posted by judith at 7:24 PM on June 12, 2007

Your mother is wrong. You have the right to walk your dog, on a leash, whenever it pleases you to do so. And to do so free from molestation by other people or their animals.

The old lady does not have any right to be an irresponsible dickhead with her dog. Walking at different times to avoid is like choosing a different time to commute to avoid the person who habitually drives in the left lane.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

That solves the problem vis-a-vis *your* dog, but her dog is still a nuisance. There's plenty of good advice upthread.
posted by notsnot at 7:31 PM on June 12, 2007

No, it absolutely does not make you a jerk. It makes you a concerned and responsible pet owner. My own dog has been attacked three times by dogs who were running around off-leash. It does not matter how friendly the dog is or the owner is, an off-leash dog in public is an unsafe dog. Offer to buy her a leash or help her with walking if it makes you feel better but frankly I think you should just report her.
posted by LeeJay at 8:26 PM on June 12, 2007

There's a dog like this in my neighborhood; every morning, the man across the street (not elderly) that owns her lets her run around and pee/poop willy nilly. Doesn't pick it up, either.

The good news is that she's a very sweet dog. The bad news is that she's fearless, and stares my dogs (on-leash) down, which freaks them out and makes them difficult to manage. She'll also pace us, always staying about ten feet away, but walking with us for most of the block. I go out of my way to make sure she's not out when I walk my dogs or bring my kids outside.

And yet, would talking to this guy help? Based on the one conversation I had with him to date, the only thing that will make him keep this dog on-leash is if he has kids that will walk it. The only reason I haven't called animal control is that she *is* a very sweet dog, and based on my personal experience with her I'm just erring on the side of caution by keeping my kids and dogs away from her.

Meanwhile, another neighbor had her daughter visiting with her dog, and she let it lounge around the front yard. A few days later it attacked two different dogs who were being walked on-leash, and (needless to say) animal control was called. The daughter left with the dog shortly thereafter.

As someone with toddlers and dogs, and skin that breaks when dogs bite it, I'm going to say that since it's a Pit Bull (which can be very, very sweet, but still have a certain amount of unpredictability, and boy what muscles!) a quick talk with her would be warranted, followed by a call to animal control if she doesn't start using a leash.
posted by davejay at 8:29 PM on June 12, 2007

The sweetest dog in the world has something which will make it bite a person or other animal. The gentlest dog in the world has a prey drive which will be switched on by something. The best-trained dog in the world will forget its training given the right type or combination of stimuli. Pit bulls, much as I love the breed, have a very high dog aggression level (which can be triggered with little warning), a low bite threshold and are big and strong enough to seriously injure a person or other animal even if they are not being aggressive. And this doesn't even address the problems this dog can cause otherwise, like causing a car or bike accident if it runs into the road.

People who manage their dogs poorly place all dog lovers at risk of increased wrongheaded legislation (California's dumb-as-a-bag-o-hammers pet sterilization bill and the countless breed specific laws which have been enacted all over the place), not only is this woman's dog a danger in and of itself for a variety of reasons, her poor management of it (and others who do the same) is not only directly affecting you, it may be indirectly affecting in its own small way hundreds of thousands of other people. She does not have the right to treat public spaces like her backyard, people who do not choose to interact with her dog should be able to walk around without fear of having to deal with her dog, she is not the only person on the block. I love dogs dearly, but dogs are not a necessity of life, asking her to responsibly manage the pet she chooses to have is not unreasonable. Leash laws exist for good reasons and you have been more than patient. Warn her specifically that if she does not leash the dog, you will have to call animal control, and then, if she continues to allow the dog to run freely, CALL ANIMAL CONTROL. This is a dangerous situation, and people and pets are injured or killed every single day in situations like this (and often by dogs who "would never hurt a fly"...which is another soap box issue of mine, but I've blathered enough). If she won't be responsible, you need to be.
posted by biscotti at 8:49 PM on June 12, 2007

What if her dog runs up to some random leashed dog that is not friendly? However harmless she may believe her own dog is, that won't keep it from getting hurt (or hurting someone else) if another dog takes offense and wants to fight. And then some responsible owner and dog get the consequences, costs, and pain, as does her dog (who doesn't have the capacity to understand the possible outcomes and problems of its behavior).

My own little dog was attacked while on leash a couple of months ago by an unleashed dog that's "never been aggressive at all, ever". The trash that had the dog didn't, of course, pay the $250 in vet bills (and I'm unemployed at the moment). They also didn't get to medicate the dog several times a day, keep him from scratching and licking at his wounds for two weeks, or spend the next three months (and counting) coaxing the dog out of his newfound fears and neuroses.

If you can't get her to use a leash, then calling Animal Control will be protecting her and her dog and assorted neighbors and their dogs.
posted by dilettante at 8:57 PM on June 12, 2007

See the scar in the top right hand corner? Me a kid playing on the street - savaged by an Alsatian off the leash the owner was convinced "wouldn't hurt a flea".

No one knows what an uncontrolled dog is likely to do in every situation. Perhaps this lady doesn't know what other options are out there for her. It's just stressful for her and for everyone else the longer this continues.

You wouldn't be a jerk. Call.
posted by gomichild at 9:22 PM on June 12, 2007

Do you know whether or not the woman has someone looking out for her? This may be early dementia. If she does, let them know about the situation. My mother has a very laid-back greyhound bitch, but one day someone left the front door open and she ran out and nearly killed a neighbor's cat.
posted by brujita at 10:27 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: brujita- I can't say if the woman has some one looking out for her. I can say this has been the constant for 7 years (I am just now getting the nerve to put my 2 cents in)
posted by MayNicholas at 10:34 PM on June 12, 2007

You aren't a jerk. Call. I say this as part owner of a couple of dogs which are never off leash but who are magnets for any unleashed dogs that are around.
posted by maxwelton at 12:06 AM on June 13, 2007

Call. My ex had an extremely dog-agressive and difficult to control dog. It seriously injured another dog that was off-leash and came by the yard. It was some kind of sled dog (or looked the part), turned up as a stray.Maybe some wild mix. The beast was a real hunter, too, but sweet as a kitten with humans (except she wouldn't listen much, but then, neither do kittens :-))
posted by Goofyy at 1:01 AM on June 13, 2007

No, you are not a jerk.
This dog is an accident waiting to happen. (I have this traumatic story about two unleashed pitbulls, and the cat I had from age 1-10(when it happened), and that cat getting killed because the "They're normally SO friendly" dogs went up for a 'friendly' sniff, the cat swiped, and then the dogs tore him apart. That's about as far as I'm going to go into it, though. Still don't much like pitbulls.)

If the lady cannot physically walk her dog herself, she needs to get someone who can (whether to walk with her or to walk it while she's at home. I can't imagine a dogwalker would hate that a little old lady accompany them on a walk)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:46 AM on June 13, 2007

I've got to disagree with the strong consensus here. It seems you feel threatened, and you feel your dog is threatened, because this dog is coming up to you. Surely this is just what every dogs does. They see another dog, and go and sniff them. Is the pit bull bearing its teeth? or growling? or displaying any other threatening sort of behaviour?

Moreover, you say she has been doing this for seven years. Have you heard of the dog misbehaving with any other animal. Biting or fighting? I feel you would have mentioned it if you had; it might be worth asking around.

If not, then I don't think you have any rational basis to feel threatened on behalf of your dog. I don't really understand the comments that your neighbour is "irresponsible", or that this dog is an accident waiting to happen.

There seems to be a general assumption in previous comments that dogs off the leash are dangerous. I find this very surprising.

Growing up, I used to walk my parents' dog regularly, and let it off the leash in the areas of the local park where this is allowed. There were dozens of dogs there, and they all run up to one another, sniff, maybe play a bit, then move on. In many years of this I never saw a dog damage another.

Here in London, most public parks have an area where you can let your dog off the leash, and in the larger parks ( such as hyde park), dogs run off the leash everywhere. Genuinely I'm at a loss to recall any serious problem happening in the parks to anyone I know.
posted by Touchstone at 3:34 AM on June 13, 2007

I've walked aggressive dogs on leash before, and off leash dogs always result in tension at least if not an out and out fight. Getting a woman who needs a walker to walk a dog on leash is probably not going to help much, but it is better than nothing. I second the muzzle idea though, even if the dog was off leash the muzzle at least mitigates the potential for harm. It's not just aggressive dogs who are a problem, submissive or poorly socialized dogs can be an issue too. Even friendly dogs can act up if you introduce an aggressive dog into the mix, and without any ability to separate the dogs when they fight it'll be a disaster.

Call animal control and the police if necessary, but get her to control her dog or not walk her outside of a dog park (where presumably people with aggressive dogs usually know not to go).
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:30 AM on June 13, 2007

Oh, and if you feel intimidated by medium sized dogs, carry some pepper spray when you walk yours.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:31 AM on June 13, 2007

To the poster above, sure, most dogs are great and its lovely to see them playing off the lead but I'm amazed to see a Brit including a Pit Bull in that happy description of family pets playing in the park.

In the UK you would be in breach of the Dangerous Dogs Act if your Pit Bull were not muzzled, on a leash, insured and neutered. Of course your Pit Bull would have to be decrepit to not be illegal, since the act was passed in 1991 and aimed make the breed extinct in this country.

You can be fined £5000 or spend 6 months in prison for simply owning a Japanese Tosa, Pit Bull or a couple of other breeds banned under the DDA in the UK.

This is a powerful breed, capable of much damage, it absolutely should be under control in public.
posted by Ness at 6:02 AM on June 13, 2007

Growing up, I used to walk my parents' dog regularly, and let it off the leash in the areas of the local park where this is allowed. ...Here in London, most public parks have an area where you can let your dog off the leash, and in the larger parks ( such as hyde park), dogs run off the leash everywhere.

And the difference between that situation and this one, is that those places are designated areas where people are aware and conscious that they are entering an area consisting of dogs without leashes. It is much much different than a person walking in a neighborhood where there is a reasonable expectation that dogs would be leashed. In your examples, someone would be able to make an informed decision to avoid the area, whereas the OP can not.
posted by ml98tu at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2007

Is the pit bull bearing its teeth? or growling? or displaying any other threatening sort of behaviour?

First, it might not be a pit. Pits are hard to tell from other bull terriers, obviously, and several other breeds are routinely mistaken for pit bulls. But assuming it is, pit bulls generally behave oddly and speak dog very badly, so it can be hard to figure out whether they're being aggressive if they're not giving a hard stare at the moment. Being hard to read is part of their fighting behavior.

If not, then I don't think you have any rational basis to feel threatened on behalf of your dog.

She doesn't need to feel threatened. She only needs to be annoyed by the improper conduct of the old lady, who lets her dog wander around bothering whoever it wants to instead of controlling its behavior as she ought.

I don't really understand the comments that your neighbour is "irresponsible"

She lets her dog wander around bothering whoever it wants to.

Growing up, I used to walk my parents' dog regularly, and let it off the leash in the areas of the local park where this is allowed.

Yes, and this old lady is letting her dog off leash in areas where it's specifically forbidden.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2007

First of all, let me say that you're not being a jerk. You tried to correct the problem nicely, and she didn't listen. It's up to dog owners to be in control of their dogs. If she can't control it on a leash, she shouldn't have such a big dog!

Is there a specific leash law in your area? You don't say where you live or what your relationship with the police is, but you could try talking to the police or sheriff.
posted by radioamy at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2007

I think getting her a leash is a good idea- but I'm dubious as to whether she will use it.

If you do get a leash- research the newer designs that attach around the dog's muzzle- I believe these leashes make it easier to control/ train the dog without being jerked around (sounds as though she would be pulled down pretty quickly) and they don't choke the dog.
posted by mistsandrain at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2007

Just because something has not happened, doesn't mean it never will.

I walk my dog on a leash, and every once in a while we encounter a loose dog. It may be the friendliest, most benign dog on the planet, but I can tell you the combination of my dog on a leash and an unsupervised unleashed dog can be really tricky to manage.

Call Animal Services. Even if you aren't ready to drop a dime on her at this point, you can lay out the situation to them in general terms and see what they suggest. They may know about resources you otherwise might not find out about.
posted by ambrosia at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2007

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