BOZEMAN, Mont. – According to the Bozeman Police Department’s animal control officer, there have been approximately 30 dog bites within the city limits alone this year.
Some of these bites have occurred within homes, while most have happened in places that dogs are supposed to be on a leash.
With the Bozeman community being such a dog-loving one, its sometimes easily forgotten that these animals can indeed surprise us when we are least expecting it.
“Dogs can be unpredictable, even the nicest dog can become agitated. Put them in a stressful situation and the dog is going to do what a dog is going to do and that’s become fearful, and therefore they can bite,” Animal Control Officer Selena Fowler said.
Some of these bites could have possibly been prevented if the dog was on a leash. The city ordinance says dogs must be on a physical restraint with a six-foot leash.
Even the most well-behaved dog needs a leash as a precautionary measure.
“Safety for the dog and for other people that are around your dog. They might not be comfortable with your dog. They could be a senior citizen who doesn’t have the greatest balance. That dog kind of cut them off or is very happy, eagerly wants to see them and can knock them down,” Fowler said.
“Small children, they are face to face with that dog and a lot of dogs do not like you being in their face, no matter how nice of a dog they are. And just because that child comes face to face with them, there could be the possibility of the dog biting them,” she added.
Bozeman is lucky enough to have dog parks with designated fenced in areas that are off-leash for your furry friend to play in, but that does not dismiss your owner responsibilities of keeping others around you safe.
“There’s some problem areas in dog parks. One of them is definitely entrance ways. I always like to say, you want to add structure and really work on your basic obedience, that’s a good area to take control of your dog,” Heart of the Valley Behavior Consultant Ben Donoghue said. “Even if your dog is friendly and great with other dogs, some dogs really struggle in that area, at least meeting the other dogs because it’s very congested. I always suggest asking your dog to sit a lot before going through the gate and really having your dog look at you a lot more, at least in that congested area.”
It truly all comes down to the issue of safety.
“It’s a balancing act, taking your dog out. It’s nice out, we’re in Montana, it’s great to be outside with your dog. But you also want to make sure you are keeping your dog safe and you’re keeping the community safe around you. It’s your responsibility as a dog owner to keep everybody safe,” Donoghue said.
If you are bitten by a dog, animal control takes bite reports and verifies rabies vaccinations. If the animal is up to date on its shots, animal control will ask the owner to keep it home for 10 days but if the animal is not up to date, it must stay at its vet or at the local shelter for the 10 days.
Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News