Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Pepper spray not answer to unleashed dogs

To the editor:

I am dismayed at a recent writer’s “inspired” response to fend off unwanted attention by other dogs upon her dogs by the use of pepper spray. For a dog owner to go to premeditated means to harm another dog is preposterous.

If the writer truly feels her dogs are in such extreme danger walking along the river and with all the other places in Northampton that welcome leashed dogs and offer equal opportunities to commune with nature, why not walk elsewhere? If the river feels so threatening, why go there?

Simply because it is a public access space that one claims rights to?

If an owner is fearful, then it stands to reason that all dogs in proximity will feel that fear. Amping up the situation with the use of a harmful substance can only lead to misery for all involved. The tension in that situation would be volatile. There are more productive and reasonable alternatives.

• Learn to be an advocate for your dogs by understanding not just dog behavior but your own. Dogs are feeding off human emotions and reactions and aren’t just sensitive to our moods when we want them to be.

• Employ an animal behaviorist to help manage reactions and understand what is normal dog behavior. Dogs are great at learning from each other and not all dogs will get along and sometimes they will say so — but rarely do encounters lead to bad endings for the dogs in question. It seems it is the humans that get in the way of healthy dog interaction with our fears, poor training and lack of understanding.

• If unleashed dogs are the issue, then the solution lies with the city, not with pepper spray. The response to harm another dog is worse than that of the irresponsible owners the writer claims to have encountered. I fear that this response will create an unhealthy and dangerous situation for everyone.

Most dogs find a way to get along or at least tolerate each other as they pass by — we could learn a lot from just stepping back and watching how dogs manage their lives in the world.

Elizabeth Rockett Volkmann


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