PTC Council dogged by loose pups on paths
The decision may not be to leash or not to leash.
A high-tech device might provide a way to keep dogs off leash and under control while also improving safety on Peachtree City’s
path system and streets.
At Tuesday night’s City Council workshop, resident Richard Linteris showed off a special wireless collar that can be triggered to shock a dog that misbehaves or strays too far.
“I guarantee you, you crank these up and you can get a dog to stop whatever he’s doing, the bad behavior, 100 percent of the time,” Linteris said.
A decision on the issue is likely not imminent as council members have requested more information from city staff. It is likely the city will have another workshop on the matter before the issue is brought up for a formal vote, officials said.
The electroshock collar may be the answer to pleas from those on both sides of the issue: those who want their dogs to roam leash-free and those who want protection from aggressive dogs, particularly on the city’s path system.
Linteris said the systems can cost between $100 and $500 with a range of a quarter mile to a mile.
Fayette County Animal Control Director Fred Sisson cautioned against relying on electroshock collars, as they are battery-powered and sometimes batteries can fail.
Several dog owners suggested that a leash law would not only penalize responsible dog owners, but it would not be obeyed by the irresponsible dog owners. Several anti-leash speakers said the city’s data doesn’t show any evidence of a need for a leash law.
But a handful of residents reported “close calls” with angry or mishandled dogs, some of whom aren’t on voice control as required by city ordinance because they don’t obey their owner’s commands.
Resident David Moulds said on one occasion a dog charged at his 5-year-old grandson at the edge of a creek. Another time an unleashed dog pinned Moulds against a tree, he said, “until the owner finally put it on a leash and took it away.”
As to the lack of data on dog incidents in the city, pro-leash speakers said it’s unlikely residents report “almost dog bites” to the police department, leaving a hole in the city’s data.
Michael Dolin said he likes taking his dog out early in the mornings for path excursions, but when he approaches another person, he puts the dog on a leash, “because I don’t know if that person has a fear.”
Dolin said he wasn’t sure how the city could force dog owners to be responsible, saying some people won’t obey whatever dog control law is established by the city.
Dog owner Steve Perry said a leash law wouldn’t address problems with irresponsible dog owners.
“You will continue to have pet owners who allow their dogs to jump on strangers,” Perry said. “.. At some point you need to consider how to determine who is a responsible pet owner and who is not.”
“The problem isn’t the dog, it’s the owners who think their dogs are under voice control,” said resident Kathie Cheney.
Everyone on both sides of the issue seemed to agree the problematic dogs on the path are those who have irresponsible owners.
City staff has withdrawn a recommendation to implement a leash law in place of the city’s current voice control system. While the police department has concerns about enforcing voice control, none of the seven dog bites reported in the city last year would have been prevented by use of a leash ordinance, said City Clerk Betsy Tyler.
City Councilman Eric Imker said he would like to see the city consider a system where dog owners would be allowed to qualify for the privilege of being allowed to have their dogs on voice control instead of a leash. He figured a small number of people who are that proficient with their dog’s control would actually meet the qualifications.
Imker said any such test should include a test of the dog’s behavior around young children.
Planning Commissioner Patrick Staples, who runs on the city’s path system, suggested that the city could perhaps designate certain dog-friendly areas so people who are skittish of dogs could be sure to avoid contact.
The city could also encourage citizens to leash their dogs by setting a high fine for a first offense, said Planning Commissioner Larry Sussberg.
Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said she hasn’t made up her mind on the issue, but she would like to strengthen the city’s ordinances to pursue the owners of loose dogs that attack people.
Complicating matters somewhat was a portion of Georgia law that Councilman Doug Sturbaum said is the equivalent of allowing a dog owner to get away with “the first bite free” without being held accountable in court. Sturbaum said he wanted to see more legal research in that area, and council also wanted clarity on whether the shock collar system can be considered a leash.