Unleashed Dog Attacks Girl on Chedoke Radial Trail

Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs on a leash and under control when they are out in public.

By Andrew Hughes
Published February 25, 2013

My daughter Katie is ten years old and is Autistic. She is high functioning and full of life. Because she is autistic, she is not comfortable around other kids, and for this reason I rarely take her to parks, birthday parties, play dates, and the like.

One of our favourite things to do is go for "nature walks", where she enjoys the peacefulness of the trails and the wildlife that goes with it.

The trail that we frequent the most is the Chedoke Radial Trail, which starts on Hillcrest Avenue and continues through the Chedoke Golf course. She particularly enjoys walking on the various paths that form part of the Bruce trail.

She did enjoy these walks until last week, and will likely be terrified of this trail for some time.

A dog owner decided to take his dog, a brown and black border collie, for a walk on the same trail, and thought it would be okay to let the dog run loose without a leash. The dog was behind us, and because it wasn't on a leash, it caught up to us very quickly.

As my daughter is scared of dogs, she did what I always told her to do, and stepped aside to let the dog pass. Unfortunately, the dog decided not to pass, and came up and jumped up at my daughter.

She ran away in circles frantically, but the dog just ran after her, lunged at her, and bit her several times. She ran full speed all the way back to the beginning of the trail, where I eventually caught up to her. She was crying, and stated repeatedly, "I am scared of dogs" and wanted to go straight home.

I had to agree with her. She has every right to be scared of dogs given what occurred, and she has the bite marks on her coat to prove it.

Why did the owner of the dog let it loose without a leash? Without it, he clearly demonstrated that he had no control over the dog, and as a result my daughter was the one that suffered.

I highly recommend that the owner of this border collie read the Dog Owners Liability Act, wherein it states that the court can order owners to take control of their dogs by using a leash, and be aware that charges could be laid where a dog has bitten or attacked.

For my daughter and everyone's sake, please abide by the by-laws and keep your dog on a leash, or do so voluntarily under the aforementioned Act.

It's going to take months, if not years, to convince Katie to go back on this trail again. For my part, I will call the City of Hamilton every time I see a dog not on a leash on that trail. I owe it to Katie.

Andrew Hughes has been living in the downtown area for over 20 years. He lives with this wife and two daughters.


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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2013 at 07:52:30

Here, here! My husband and I stopped going for evening walks in Gage Park due to a group of activist dog owners who were meeting there to agitate for a leash-free Gage Park and allowing their dogs (in some cases quite large) to run off leash. I won't walk the rail trails for the same reason (when I was twelve, I was bitten on the shoulder by a neighbour's large dog - "he won't hurt you" - he got me on the shoulder, would have gotten me on the neck but I turned away). The only strange dogs I trust are service dogs, because they are breeds chosen for their intelligence, whose training is very rigorous, and they are always on a leash when out in public because they are working.

In areas that are used by a wide variety of people (old, young, differently abled, folks who use service animals who can't have a large off-leash dog running to their guide dog to "play") leashes must be the rule. I have also spoken to neighbours with smaller dogs who are irritated by larger off-leash dogs bothering their pets when they are out for a walk.

Lobby for more leash free parks, by all means, dog owners, but don't take the law into your own hands. Some, like the young person in this article, may have very weighty reasons for needing to avoid an encounter with an uncontrolled dog.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2013-02-25 07:55:42

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 08:46:37

This should never have happened to you. Border collies are very active herding dogs and because they are herders they do have a tendency to nip and chase and for that reason should not be allowed off leash just anywhere the owner pleases.

As a dog owner though I have to say be careful about encouraging a fear of dogs. People who are afraid of dogs aren't doing themselves any favours. It is a vicious cycle. Dogs sense fear and their response to that is to not trust you and start acting sketchy (barking, acting defensively or aggressively) which gives the person more reason to be afraid of dogs. I have a friend who has a fear of dogs and the difference in my dogs' behaviour when he visits is very noticeable. After a little while everyone eventually warms up to one another but the first few minutes are tense.

I think having your daughter spend some time with a loving dog might be helpful. My niece is autistic and was apprehensive with dogs but she spent some time with my chocolate lab in a controlled situation and they fell in love. She's not totally over her fear but she is much more comfortable around dogs in general.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 09:19:38

The city needs more enclosed off leash areas - and to couple that with stricter enforcement of leash laws in the rest of the city. This helps people to avoid contact with dogs by avoiding the designated areas, while still allowing dog owners to give their pets some freedom and a chance to socialize with other dogs and people in a safe, controlled environment. If every citizen was within walking distance of a leash free area, we would see a lot less dogs off-leash in parks that should be designated for kids, not canines. Leash-free parks are good for everyone - dogs, their owners, and non-dog owners alike.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 09:34:34

Stupid people and their dogs. We should have licensing on par with (or more severe than) motor vehicles for dog ownership.

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By JonD (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:26:56

I have a toddler as well that is naturally nervous of large dogs. I generally pick him up when an unleashed dog approaches and find it very annoying when the owners claim to have such intimate knowledge of their dogs behaviour to assure me that they won't bite. "Completely out of character" is likely the most common phrase animal control officers hear when investigating dog bites. Keep them leashed, people.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:34:19

My older son also has an autism disorder (Asperger's) and both my boys are nervous around dogs. I've been in a similar position many times, with unleashed dogs. We had such a situation on the Rail Trail just last week. Thankfully I was able to get myself between the kids and the dog and order it off, which worked fine.

So sorry this happened to your daughter. I don't know what to do with dog owners any more; I sympathize with the lack of accessible leash-free areas within the city, but so many dog owners it seems don't take into account the responsibilities to their dogs (a border collie in the city? really?) and to the community when deciding to get a dog.

As always (especially with animals it seems) it's a selfish few who ruin things for the responsible many.

Comment edited by Tybalt on 2013-02-25 10:35:05

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By hi (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:53:16

This is an important issue that deserves a respectful dialogue. As Tybalt says, a few bad apples ruin the bunch. The majority of people who take their dogs off leash are respectful of others, find out of the way places to go, and have the best interest of their dogs at heart. Going off leash is the absolute best way to get a dog proper exercise and stimulation. Walking around the block on the leash is about as exciting and stimulating to a dog as it is to the rest of us, and if that is all the exercise they get, they quite rightly go a little bonkers. Leash free parks are little better. Urban, domesticated dogs have a very tough lot in life as there are few options for proper exercise and mental stimulation when the needs and constraints of the community enter the equation.

It is a shame what happened to the author's daughter. As was mentioned previously by Kiely, the incident sounds like typical border collie behaviour. It was by no means an "attack" as the article title states. In dog terms, the collie was herding or disciplining the girl. The dog meant no harm, and if it had there would be more than nip marks on a jacket to show for it. This is not an apology for what took place, nor would I presume to discount the emotional toll that such an incident has on the child and the parent. But the context of the behaviour of the dog is useful for the conversation.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2013 at 18:36:15 in reply to Comment 86730

The comfort and safety and inclusion of all people in Hamilton's beautiful parks is the issue here, off-leash dogs interfere with this, potentially very seriously. Inclusion of all people, whatever their limitation, is the context here. No other.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 13:28:07 in reply to Comment 86730

The owner posted a picture of the girls ripped coat on facebook. It was no "nip".

Dogs off leashes among the general public are dangerous and the owners that engage in this are irresponsible and incredibly selfish. The person walking past your unleashed dog has not made a choice to do so, you have given them no other option.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2013 at 11:36:16 in reply to Comment 86730

It was by no means an "attack" as the article title states. In dog terms, the collie was herding or disciplining the girl.

I understand and appreciate your caveat about this not being an apology, but this is precisely the kind of blinders-on rationalization that dog owners tend come up with when their dogs menace and terrorize others.

I could not care less what temperament a given breed of dog has: no dog out in public should ever be out of its owner's control. The issue here was not that border collies have a tendency to herd or nip or make tea and crumpets. The issue is that the dog was not on a leash.

By the way, I fully support leash-free parks - but I also expect dog owners to obey the law.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-02-25 11:37:14

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 17:33:21

Dogs need to be exercised and with a notable exception or two, Hamilton's leash free parks are crap. They are small, open and with few trees leaving little for the dogs to do but pack up and bug one another. Likewise, nothing for the owners to do but stand around.

It goes back to what I've read so often on this site with regards to talking not about what people should do. Better dog parks would result in fewer off leash dogs. Personally, I go to two dog parks and they are the furthest from me. The closest one I still need to drive to and it is a hill with nothing on it but a bus shelter. I simply won't take my dog there.

I will also point out that our parks and streets are safer with dog walkers than without them.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2013-02-25 17:33:59

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By est (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 17:55:47

As a newly minted dog owner, I appreciated this discussion so much. Having two close family members bit by out of control dogs, I do find it appalling anyone would try to justify having a dog off leash around the public or publicly used trails. Public safety comes before a dog's leash free time; obviously!

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By LawEnforcement (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 20:01:47

The Dog Owners Liability Act spells out the responsibility and consequences. Lets enforce the law to its full extent. Dog owners will eventually figure things out from their jail cells. Financial penalties are not enough. It used to be socially acceptable to smoke indoors and we have come a long way. Now we can focus on the handful of irresponsible and law breaking dog owners. Society will be the better for it.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 21:54:58 in reply to Comment 86755

Right. Well given that far more persons are injured or killed by irresponsible drivers let's jail them first. Then we can get to errant dogs. :rolleyes:

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By LawEnforcement (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 23:14:32 in reply to Comment 86757

Enforcing the Highway Traffic Act is also an excellent idea. When it comes to jail, people will quickly figure things out. Look after your dogs and look after your driving. Sounds like a plan.

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By ViennaCafe (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:22:03 in reply to Comment 86841

What a plan. Let's jail everyone at birth and only release them when sufficiently obedient. A police nanny state. Awesome.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2013 at 22:31:53

It's worth mentioning that there's some serious issues of ability on the other side of the coin, too. Not everybody is able to run with a dog, and the city doesn't have the best record on wheelchair-accessibility in their dog parks.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted February 25, 2013 at 23:41:44

My condolences to both you and your daughter. I hope that both of you can one day get over the attack, it will not be quick or easy. These kind of traumatic experiences can leave lingering effects for a long time. It might be a good idea to expose your daughter to another dog, one that is not aggressive. There are certainly lots of those around. There is a group that brings dogs to funerals, the presence can help some people. These dogs are all well trained and very docile. Maybe you know someone with a small puppy? Some exposure even for a few seconds at a time might help her learn to not fear all dogs. Even if she is not real happy about it at first. I know it is very fine line to tread and you her father knows best exactly how to walk that line.

This should not have happened. Ever. Dogs like all other pets must be subservient to all people. No person no matter how big or small, old or young should have to fear somebody's pet. A stranger's or a family member's.

In my lifetime I have had several dogs. I have always taken the time, energy and discipline to train my dogs very well. Before any dog is taken off leash in an environment where it can interact with other people it must be highly trained, not only to obey voice commands but also how to interact with other people. If any dog bites a person that dog needs to be put down. No exceptions no excuses. Nobody should be in fear of an unprovoked attack. The only acceptable reason for a dog attack is to stop serious criminal behaviour at the instigation of the owner/handler.

Owners must be held accountable not only for their pets but also their decisions and the result thereof. I feel bad for the dog. He did what he has been bread to do for centuries. Herd and control other creatures. The fact it should now be put down is strictly the fault of the owner. Too bad.

I can see the day where an owner must have insurance to cover the damages that a dog can inflict on a person. The same reason owners must have insurance on their cars. Shame that stupid uncaring owners are taking us down this path and ruining one of life's great pleasures (pets, in particular dogs) for so many of us.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 07:01:35

Just wondering: is that area an off-leash zone or no? I know that the city has just recently converted some parks and walking areas into off-leash areas, and was wondering if this had happened there. I would hope not as that's not a great area for a dog to be uncontrolled.

We take our dog on a leash everywhere, except when at a fenced-in area that is an off-leash area, or, on some weekends, at fenced in green spaces at a school. If we see another dog owner there, we will put the leash on, approach, and see if their dog is OK with our dog, and if so, let them run together. Dogs are pack animals and need to run and play with some of their fellow dogs every once in a while. The key is to find the right places.

Sidenote: I totally agree with ViennaCafe's comment about the current sad state of dog parks. The one nearest our house, on Dundurn, is a muddy mess this time of year and we can't take the dog there without having to hose her off once we get home. If there was some space with a mix of grass, gravel/concrete walking paths, and maybe some of that mulch-like stuff they use at playgrounds, it would be a bit better. That, and some stuff to take the dogs through (small plastic tunnel, zig-zag cones, maybe a nice area to throw a ball, that kind of thing). Maybe somewhere for the owners to sit while the dogs run? Maybe adequate lighting at night? Maybe a fully fenced-in area so the dogs don't run out of the park?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 26, 2013 at 07:54:16 in reply to Comment 86767

According to the city's Leash Free Zones & Dog Parks page, the following locations are leash-free:

Dog Parks

  • Hamilton SPCA, 245 Dartnall Road
  • Hill Street Park, 13 Hill Street

Running Areas

  • Little John Park, 110 Little John Road
  • Chegwin Park, 27 Chegwin Street
  • Cinema Park, Golf Links Road beside Silvercity Theatres

Here's a map of Hamilton's off-leash areas. It's clear from the map that there need to be more off-leash areas in Hamilton, especially in the central and east lower city, the central mountain and Stoney Creek.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-02-26 07:56:03

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 21:06:49 in reply to Comment 86777

The SPCA park is a terrific park in the far south, eastern reaches of the city. The Hill Street Park is a small, open patch of mud undeserving of the words "dog park".

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By A dog (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 22:22:23

Just one thing to add. A big part of this problem is that there is a sense of entitlement when it comes to having a dog and I think that needs to be looked at. Dogs are living creatures and a large responsability to care for.

So given there are so many in the city it stands to reason to provide more stable safe areas for for dogs to exercise. Both undersocializing and pent up enrgy contribute to much of the negative encounters with dogs.

In addition because there is a lot to know to properly care for a dog, I think a lisence should entaila course or some form of dog care training before one is allowed to have a dog.

Finally, and I think it was touched on before,fear and apprehension of dogs in genreal also not only help lead to unfortunate reactions but when an adult is unsure or nervous, children pick up on this and tend to develop the same fears. So it is important for parents to perhaps have some kind of positive engagement with friendly dogs to help themselves and also their children as dog encounters are a part of city life and aproperly measured reaction can help keep everyone calmer.

I realise this is more difficult with children who have special needs but dogs are wonderful animals and positive interaction can go a long way.

This all being said, the sense of entitlement of this owner or their complete lack of awareness of the behaviours of their dogs (who even if good natured can get overly rambunctious when left completely free without direction) they should not have had it beyond their control especially as they never know who they may encounter and this city is for all of us.

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By A dog (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2013 at 22:25:12

P.S. The title of this is misleading. a true attack would have caused harm and while it was definitely traumatic and a negative encounter, a true attack is much more severe and I doubt the dog truly intended any real harm. The media does this often and voerblows and sensationalizes some events which leads to public panic and over-reaction which solves nothing and increases the pain for all.

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By BorderCollieLover (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 08:50:15

I own a border collie. She needs to run, chase squirrels and explore, and that level of exercise and stimulation can only be accomplished by being off-leash.

We have been through some indepth, unique training (with no treats used as bribes) that has worked, and I can safely hike with her off leash. This is because I am vigilant in my control of her and, hence, she returns to me the moment I call her back. In addition, I am always mindful and considerate of others on the trail (hikers, runners, skiers, cyclists, horses and wildlife, and immediately attach her leash because I know others may perceive her as a threat.

I think it is very important to note that not all dogs and dog owners are alike, just like not all people are alike. Currently, there is a 'black and white' mentality about dogs, their owners and leashes. A distinction should be made that there are responsible dog owners out there who possess leadership of and respect from their dogs and, hence, have the highest of expectations and necessary control of their dogs.

Our country has moved to same sex marriage. I wish we could be similarly progressive and open-minded about our lives with dogs.

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By Mauled (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 08:56:43 in reply to Comment 86852

No one ever got attacked and mauled by a badly trained same sex marriage.

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By BorderCollieLover (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 09:13:08 in reply to Comment 86853

The key component is the training - it must be such that there is complete control of the dog, and nothing less. With consistency and a commitment of time and effort, it happens once the dog views the owner as its leader, respects its owner, and is bonded to him/her.

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By Mauled (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 09:17:17 in reply to Comment 86857

Exactly, most people are just not responsible enough to do that and they're oblivious to how obnoxious and dangerous there badly trained dogs are to others. A black and white leash law protects me and my kids from other peoples (maybe not yours) irresponsibility with there dogs.

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By border patrol (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 09:09:05

I think it's ridiculous to own a border collie if you live in the city. There's a reason so many end up in rescue programs, they're strong high energy farm working dogs not family pets. Maybe you're good enough of a trainer to have one but most people aren't and the rules need to protect us from the stupidity of the average clueless dog owner. The Chedoke trail is not a farm and families walking there are not animals to be 'herded'.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 21:27:45 in reply to Comment 86854

I think it's ridiculous to own a big effing pick-up truck in the city for the purpose of commuting, but there ya go.

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By BorderCollieLover (registered) | Posted February 27, 2013 at 09:19:17 in reply to Comment 86854

Just to be clear, I am not a trainer - just a trainee, who luckily fell into the hands of the right trainer. I have never enjoyed a dog more than my border collie. I know I'm one of the lucky few who came out the other side with the greatest dog I've ever owned and the deepest of bonds I've ever experienced.

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By Walker (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2013 at 21:27:46

The are all sorts of 2 and 4 legged hazards out there. When I go for such a walk I carry a can of "Bear spray" (Industrial strength pepper spray). I've used it a couple of times on dogs with excellent results

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By JuJuBean (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2013 at 00:49:40

This past weekend I had an encounter with an unleashed dog. He clamped on my forearm 3 times before the owner got him away from me. This dog owner was walking with 3 other adults and 3 other dogs (total of 4 dogs). The other 2 dogs were off leash as well. I was walking with my dog who was leashed. The owner of the dog who rushed me did nothing when I told him to get his dog away from me. He didn't believe when I said the dog bite me. I was terrified. I don't know why the dog targeted me over my dog but he probably picked up on my fear and reacted accordingly. Thankfully, my dog stayed quiet while all this took place.

As upset as I am that a dog would do that (clamp on a human), I am more upset that 3 adults watched and did nothing while it was happening. Other than the man saying a few words to me, the others said nothing. They just looked at me when I asked them then begged them to get the dog away from me. I feel for that little girl. I KNOW how terrified she must have been. There is nothing anybody can say that justifies what happened to that child. I don't care how well you think you've trained your dog, you keep him leashed when around others. A dog is just that. A dog.

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By JuJuBean (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2013 at 01:08:39

And let me add, there is a 10 day window for someone who's been bitten by a dog to verify that the dog's vaccines are up to date. Otherwise, if the doctor feels it's necessary, the person has to start rabies treatment. The last thing on my mind was asking for the man's name and address.

So please, people, keep your dogs leashed.

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By awesometacular (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2013 at 11:23:12

X comes here to complain.
Y comes here in order to agree with everyone else.
Z comes here with retarded suggestions.

All that and.. nothing really happens.

But somehow, all of you feel better about yourselves after spewing some amount of kb data on this site.

So please... keep your stupidity leased.

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By KT (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2013 at 09:17:36

Hi just wanted to say that I'm moving to Hamilton and am a bit concerned about the dog culture I've seen so far in my new neighbourhood (Ottawa St N). While prepping the house for move-in I've walked my dog (on leash) along the streets to and from local parks, and there are a lot of big backyard dogs that want to fence-fight. One rottweiler that lives across the track from our local park gets up on the fence and barks continuously for the entire time we're at the park. The last time we walked along a certain street one of the residents' gates was left open, and their pit bull rushed out at me and my dog on the sidewalk. I had zero time to think, it was all over in a matter of seconds. Out of pure instinct, I grabbed my dog by the neck to control her and when the other dog clamped onto my dog's leg, I started kicking. I think this surprised the other dog enough that it retreated back into its yard. It could have been a lot worse - the other dog might have locked on me instead, for instance. Anyway the owners were pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, which is what I found the most alarming of all. Their question was "is there blood all over the sidewalk? no! so what's your problem?" Personally, "blood everywhere" is not a barometer I would use to decide whether or not a situation is problematic. Anyway I'm just worried - my dog is used to being walked each and every day two or three times, and I don't want to diminish her quality of life by taking that away from her, but at the same time it feels like I'm taking her and my life in my hands by walking around the neighbourhood. Don't know what to do about it, I don't want to be an annoying new neighbour who lectures everyone, but I do want to be able to be safe. I have nothing against rottweilers or pit bulls, when they're well trained and exercised, but there seems to be a tendency in the neighbourhood to keep these dogs in the backyard and let them scare the bejeebers out of anyone who passes nearby.

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