I struggled a little bit to write this post because reading it could really go many different ways. Let me start by saying that I like dogs. I had one growing up but that didn't go over well (my dad and the dog just didn't see eye-to-eye). When I first moved out of my parents house, I got a dog (a black lab mix). I loved that dog and had him for quite a few years. However, my circumstances changed and I had to give him up. While that was a really difficult decision for me, I acknowledge that it was probably harder on the dog and so I accept that I shouldn't have gotten him in the first place. As such, I am a big proponent of responsible pet ownership.
For the time being, my wife and I have decided not to get a dog. We like the flexibility of not having one and admit that we are simply too busy to properly care for one. But I also accept that when my son is older, he may ask for one and so that is a decision that we have put on the shelf for a later date.
So I tell that story to give what I'm going to say next some credibility: if you don't have complete control of your dog, it should not go off-leash in a public area.
I run a lot on trails and natural areas. These trails happen to also be very popular areas for dog owners and their dogs. And understandably so - they are beautiful, natural areas with plenty of room to run, walk, and play. Despite the fact that most of these trails are not off-leash areas, the majority of dogs I see on the trails are off-leash. In theory, I have no problem with this. I like to see dogs running around, playing, and enjoying the public space as much as I am. And the large majority of dogs are perfectly capable of doing so without any problems.
However, there are a small percentage of dogs that simply should not be off-leash in a public area. Most owners of those dogs know that and leash their dogs accordingly. But there are a very tiny few that do not. Over the years, I have been bit, nipped, gnarled at, growled at, and snapped at.
As such, I usually slow down around dogs, keep a steady line and pace, and try not to startle dogs. Most dogs barely pay me any attention. But a very small few inevitably run, chase, and snarl. The owners almost always chase their dogs and apologize profusely for their brief lack of control. I accept that I wear bright clothing which may startle or attract a dog's attention, but I am not unique in that regard.
Some dogs wander aimlessly all over the path and I have almost tripped over numerous dogs but this doesn't bother me. What bothers me is the aggressive dogs that are still off-leash.
So my argument is simple: if you do not have complete control over your dog's behaviour, your dog should not be off-leash in a public area. So far, in the times I have been bitten or nipped, I haven't needed stitches (luckily all minor). But I hate to think of the day that I, or someone else, does.
Am I out of line in my thinking? I don't think that I am.