Dog Fight

Our View: The City Needs More Than A Lower Leash Fine

April 19, 2009

Baltimore dog lovers are at war with people who are tired of dealing with the messy or sometimes frightening consequences of walking where dogs run free. These victims persuaded the City Council last year to raise the fine for walking a dog without a leash to $1,000. That's ridiculously high - 10 times the previous fine for first-time offenders. Even the original author of last year's legislation agrees. Councilman Edward L. Reisinger is promising to co-sponsor legislation to be introduced Monday to lower the fine to $250 for first-time offenders.

But that's not the end of this shaggy dog story. The city should seek to answer the legitimate grievances of both dog owners and the people victimized by their pets. The owners say dogs need places to run free without leashes but under supervision. The victims say parks are for people, that there is no way to tell a friendly mutt from one that's looking to take a bite, and by the way, who's going to clean their shoes?

A possible answer - more fenced areas tucked into corners of larger city parks where dogs can run free under the close supervision of their owners. Cleanup bags would be provided, and the fenced areas could be closed if the bags are not used. Owners of dogs off-leash elsewhere could be assigned to cleanup duty in addition to their fines.

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