Column: Be accountable for your pet dogs

As a dog owner myself, I sympathize with the plight of the Lake Country couple, Jennifer and Peter Madsen, who desperately want their impounded dog released from incarceration.

The couple are embroiled in a court case with the regional district over their malamute, Shadow, picked up 15 months ago by the dog catcher for being a dangerous dog.

The matter is now before the courts, but the Madsens were joined by a large group of supporters on Monday to plead their case before the regional district board. This particular case seems to have captured the attention of a lot of people, as evident by the traffic to our website stories on the issue and some of the emotional viewpoints expressed on Monday night.

While the facts behind the complaint itself are a source of dispute between the two sides, for now the Madsens want their dog returned home until the case is dealt with.

As a dog owner, I understand that Shadow being stuck in the dog pound pen is akin to having one of your kids detained in a prison. That’s the way it is with dog owners.

I often like to say I have four kids, two are dogs and two are children. Our two dogs are part of our family, but I also have to accept the fact their actions are accountable to me.

When I get mad at how another dog may be acting, I’m really mad at the owner for allowing that situation to occur, but the dog tends to be the focal point of one’s fears and frustrations.

One of our dogs is a mixed up mutt, a combination of a Sheltie and German Shepherd and probably other things we don’t know of. He has personality anxiety issues and probably would be on Prosac if he was human, but that’s another story.

We like to think he wouldn’t hurt a flea, but I realize that when he is excited or fearful, I can’t completely predict what he will do.

To someone who doesn’t know him, for my dog to come charging out to greet them while barking is 55 lbs. of trouble with big teeth coming their way.

I have been embarrassed by how he has acted at times, charging across the street to bark at someone on the opposite sidewalk from our house, or barking at our patient neighbours.

That sort of thing is not, “Oh, what a cute puppy stuff,” but rather I have not been accountable for his actions, set him up to fail.

Accountability is something I didn’t hear much about at Monday’s gathering in support of the Madsens.

While the court case will sort out what exactly did or didn’t happen during the altercation, the reality is Shadow got away from its owners, and that is the responsibility of the owners.

As both a dog owner and someone who as a kid was attacked by a Doberman Pinscher running around on the loose, I get both sides of the argument. But it’s just not always somebody’s else fault for how our dogs act in a given situation.

Barry Gerding is managing editor the Kelowna Capital News.


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