Ever since I was born, my family always had several dogs and other pets: Pit Bulls, English Bulldogs, Hounds, Pugs, Manx Cats, Feral Cats, chickens, turtles, and lizards. The only pets that didn’t bite me or try to bite me were the Pit Bulls.
As far as my parents were concerned, if I got bit by one of the pets, it was my own fault, and they were upset about it, because they didn’t want one of the family pets to get a “criminal record” for biting someone.
My parents liked animals. The animals were allowed in the house, upstairs and downstairs, on the furniture and on the beds. Because of pet doors, other people’s cats came in the house, and also squirrels and opossums.
No one in my family was scared of getting rabies from any of the animals, or any other disease from dogs, cats, chickens, turtles, lizards, squirrels, bats, or opossums.
A couple of years ago in Dickinson, a co-worker of mine had temporary custody of a 9 month old Vizsla dog, because his daughter could no longer keep him. This Vizsla was a nice looking dog, he was fairly intelligent, so I offered to take him on a trial basis to see if my landlord at the time would want him, because he was looking for a dog.
My landlord liked this dog, so he kept him, at the house where I was living. I would sometimes take this Vizsla for walks on an adjacent vacant 30 acres of land. This Vizsla weighed about 45 pounds, he was a medium sized dog, he had a nice shiny short coat of hair, a silly disposition, and he was not an aggressive fighting dog.
Probably mostly because of my own boredom, I wanted to take this Vizsla to the Dog Park in Dickinson. Both of the times that I took this Vizsla to the Dog Park, I realized that this was a huge mistake, and that this was a lawsuit waiting to happen.
At the Dog Park, there is a large sign, that clearly states what the Dog Park rules are. It states that persons who use the Dog Park, do so at their own risk. The City of Dickinson does not have that much more liability for this Dog Park, than any other public facility that they own. But the Dog Park users have tremendous liability at the Dog Park.
I thought that at the Dog Park, I would encounter “Dog People”. Instead, I found people that were wary, scared, and not good around dogs. On top of that, they were nutty.
The first time that I took the Vizsla to the Dog Park, there was a very pale, weakly musculatured, 35 year old woman sitting on the bench inside the Dog Park large sized dog area, who had worn very short shorts. Once I turned this Vizsla loose inside the fenced in area for large sized dogs, I kept having to intercept him because he kept wanting to go see this woman and step up onto her lap to greet her and be petted.
This woman was very strange, because she was acting like this Vizsla was a person, who certainly should know better and have the self control to not physically touch her. If I would not have stopped him, he would have stepped all over her trying to lick her face, and he probably would have scratched the shit out of her pale white legs.
He was a nine month old, very energetic dog, and he wanted to say hello, make friends, give her kisses, and be petted. She didn’t want to have any physical contact with him whatsoever, but she didn’t have the sense to stand up, put her hands out to keep him off her, or tell him no. This was one of the least understanding people toward dogs that you will ever come across, and here she is sitting inside of the large sized dog area. This is supposed to be, supposed to be, a safe designated area to let you dog run off its leash, but this was just an accident and lawsuit waiting to happen with this person in there.
The second time that I went to the Dickinson Dog Park, I had the Vizsla inside the large sized dog area running around off his leash by himself. Then a family showed up with a smaller dog. The husband and wife who were in their forties got out of their car, and they had grandma and grandpa with them, who were in their 70s. I watched grandma and grandpa, they were unsteady and unstable on their feet, and they could not walk very well.
In addition to grandma and grandpa, they had a 5 year old and an 8 year old kid with them. The sign at the Dickinson Dog Park, that has the rules posted, I believe that it says no small children allowed in the large sized dog area. Here all six of these people came, trying to enter the large sized dog area. I bet that in less than a minute or two, this Vizsla would have knocked down grandma or grandpa who could barely walk, or the 5 year old and the 8 year old kid, by trying to stand up on its hind legs to greet them and unintentionally knocking them over.
I couldn’t believe this. This Dog Park was like a magnet for people who shouldn’t be anywhere near a medium sized or large sized dog who is running and playing off its leash, but here these people are trying to get inside the off leash dog area for large sized dogs.
I have been at the Emergency Room in Dickinson, where an unexpected and uninvited kid went over to someone’s house, and the family pet tried to greet them and unintentionally scratched the kid. The parents of the uninvited kid took the kid straight to the Emergency Room, just for a dog scratch, which resulted in $1,400 for medical services, which they wanted the dog owner to pay. The hospital I believe also had to complete a “dog incident report” to hand over to the Dickinson Animal Control Department. This is what people in Dickinson will do now, just for one paw scratch from a family pet.
If you want to safely walk a dog in Dickinson, even a very large dog, the north side or the south side of Patterson Lake is a very good place to do this, because you can keep a very large distance away from other people. Just don’t let your dog off its leash anywhere around people. Also, I warn people that once you start getting far away from the parking lot areas at Patterson Lake, you have to be aware that there are people living and/or hiding in the bushes.
A commentor was disagreeing with what I wrote about Dog Parks, so I spent an hour reading ten other articles about Dog Parks.
I don’t even want to address and write about all of the legal disputes that have arisen from dog bites and dog fights that have occurred at Dog Parks. I just want to discuss dog owner liability for a friendly dog pawing someone, or jumping up on someone to greet them.
The Big Problem, is that people do not share the same understanding of what a Dog Park is. For me, and for other dog owners, there is the belief that it is normal for dogs to run, play, and be friendly, and a designated off leash Dog Park is a good place for a friendly dog to run and play.
However, there are other dog owners, that use the Dog Park, who do not share this same view. For instance, in the ten articles that I read about Dog Parks, there was the common occurrence where people using the Dog Park, stated that “They had severe back problems, and could not handle getting bumped or run into by someone else’s dog.”
Some people believed, that if your physical health is so bad that you can’t get bumped, you should not be entering an off leash Dog Park where dogs are running and playing. The people who have back injuries or who are elderly, believed that they have just as much right as anyone else to be in the Dog Park, and that someone else’s dog should not bump them, run into them, or stand up and put their paws on them.
As for the legal liability for friendly dog behavior, just the discussion of liability on internet forums where attorneys answered these questions, was very disturbing and ugly.
For instance, a reader could pose the question about legal liability for their six month old large puppy running into someone at an off leash Dog Park, and knocking the person over. Within just a few seconds and a few sentences, attorneys on the internet forum would begin making statements like, “…has your dog had a history of aggression?….”, “…has your dog received a citation for knocking people down in the past…?”, “…I recommend that your dog receive obedience training from a certified instructor in order to lessen your legal liability…”
It turns out that there a many Dog Park lawsuits against dog owners. The common cause of these lawsuits is that dog owners mistakenly believed that their liability was lessened when they released their dog into an off leash Dog Park, because they were amongst “Dog People”, who all shared the same understanding of dog behavior. It turns out, that people have no idea what other people’s beliefs and intentions are, and you can not let your dog loose around other people, because you have no idea how other people will behave.