Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

There’s a reason we have dog leash laws; this is one of them

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For those of you who don’t know this, dogs are predators, while horses are prey animals. Dogs are wonderful pets, but loose in a natural environment their instincts take over. Equally, a horse’s instinct to run will take over whenever it is frightened.

I want the owner who let his dog run loose in the park behind Woodlawn in Sandy Spring on Jan. 5 to know the mayhem and injury that resulted. Hopefully this story will also help dog owners to think twice before breaking our leash laws.

On the trail, a barking dog came up behind us. My frightened horse jumped forward bolting; I hit the ground. Two other horses became upset; another rider was in trouble. I grabbed the reins of his horse so he could dismount. My horse, terrified, ran off since the dog still pursued her while the owner stood about 100 feet away, useless.

Another rider, dismounted, tried to scare the dog off. He came back to me, I screamed and kicked out at him. He finally returned to his owner.

Pain shooting down my back and leg, I managed to get to the Park Police, crying in fear my horse would be hit by a car or tangle up in the reins, causing injury or death. Fortunately, the Park Police groom caught her. One officer who came to my aid, said that unleashed dogs are their most frequent complaint.

This dog’s owner should know that the impact of his actions does not end here. I spent the night in the hospital in excruciating pain. My tail bone and pelvis are bruised and I am missing work. I am a teacher and my students are getting ready for finals. My family experienced a scare when I passed out from pain. They are taking time to tend to me now.

The park trails belong to all of us: cyclists, families with young children, the elderly, hikers and people who have dog phobias. Unleashed dogs, however, do not have rights. Leash your dog for his sake and ours. It’s the law.

Elizabeth C. Alcoba, Olney