Deputies tighten up leash laws 

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A sudden uptick in off-leash dog citations has taken many dog owners by surprise. While traditionally law enforcement and county parks staff have been tolerant of off-leash dogs, local sheriff’s deputies and new ranger Aaron Johnson are making strict adherence a priority.

“I know a lot of people have traditionally done it but a lot of people on the other side are coming up to me asking why all these dogs are off leash,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he had brought the matter to the attention of local deputies Jason Loreen and Tom McCarthy, who began issuing warnings and $74 citations.

“If it’s brought to our attention we tend to focus on it,” said Chief Doug Chadwick with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. 20150917_120818edWhile in the past, deputies have not focused on animal control issues Chadwick said the deputies have the discretion to take enforcement action in that realm.

Whatcom County Code 6.04.060 (A) states that “except in exempt areas, the owner or keeper of any dog shall not allow it to be at large and not under control.” According to the code, under control “means that the owner, by means of a leash, restrains the dog to the owner’s immediate proximity, preventing the dog from trespassing upon property or annoying or chasing other persons, animals, or vehicles of any sort.”

Chadwick said deputies had focused more on education in July and August, warning people their dogs needed to be leashed. “They got little change in behavior from that so they started writing citations,” he said. While their initial focus was in parks, they expanded their scope to all areas following a letter to the editor in the September issue of the All Point Bulletin complaining about dogs at large. Chadwick said deputies had issued 10 citations for off-leash dogs in the last month.

Maureen Buckley received a $74 citation on September 13 as she walked her dog in the Maple Beach neighborhood where she lives. “Not under control? He was 10 feet from me, responds to commands and I had his leash on my body,” she said. “I have walked my dogs here multiple times a day for 11 years with no incidents. This is our normal way of being.”

William Dunnigan received a citation in Lighthouse Marine Park in late August after he took his dog off the leash to run in the large central field. “Technically he’s right I guess,” he said, “but there were no people, he was under control.”

Buckley and Dunnigan both added that deputies have been unreasonably brusque rather than focusing on educating dog owners about the change in enforcement of the leash law. “His presence has really unsettled people here,” Buckley said of Deputy McCarthy. “We have older ladies who say they are afraid to walk their dogs, that they have nightmares!”

While two of the responses to Buckley’s Facebook post applauded the increased enforcement, most considered it unnecessary and an unreasonable use of deputies’ time.

“There are lots of communities where, if a dog is ‘under the control’ of his person, all is well,” one wrote. “Let’s help them get their priorities in alignment with our community’s priorities.” Many brought up the greater need for traffic enforcement. “Here on APA at least a dozen cars are going by every day at 50 miles per hour, but no loose dogs,” another commenter said.

Pamela Sheppard, owner of Auntie Pam’s Country Store, said she favors balance in enforcing the leash law. “If there’s a grandma on the beach throwing the ball for her 8-pound poodle I don’t think she should get a ticket,” she said. “Some people have nice, well-behaved dogs who don’t run up to people or jump up or get grumpy with other dogs, but then there are people, like me, who don’t. I keep mine on the leash.” She added that unleashed dogs in her neighborhood made it a challenge to walk her dogs on the leash.

With no designated off-leash area in Point Roberts, many community members who contacted the All Point Bulletin, both those who oppose and those who support enforcing leash laws, thought this was the time to establish one.

“They do need to run,” Sheppard said. “I’d do a fundraiser for a dog park.”

  1. When I was elected to parks board in 2011 it was one of my priorities to work towards a community maintained, secure area for off-leash dog play and socialization. The human/dog ratio in Point Roberts is very high as is the devotion to canine well being. Circumstances prevented me from staying in Point Roberts to fulfill this roll, however I encourage the current parks board to look closely at this situation and to add the possibility for the creation of a fenced, public, dog friendly park area to their agenda. I have always been certain it would be a valued and well used asset to the community.

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  2. Stricter control of dogs is long over due in Point Roberts. I used to cycle around your community daily, no matter what the weather was, but gave up because I got tired of being chased by dogs, sometimes by two or more dogs at once. Dogs at large like to form packs, especially in colder weather.

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  3. Sad to see this issue applied to lands other than parks. The beaches are shared by private owners and those with access rights, for the most part. I have, as so many others, walked our dogs along the water for over 30 years, unleashed. I have not had a problem and don’t think I have caused one either. I carry my plastic bag and pick up any waste. The enjoyment of seeing the dogs so happily playing and swimming, increases my own sense of joy in this daily activity. We all get much needed exercise benefits. It is part of our way of life at Point Roberts, which our family loves dearly. Sometimes I wonder what gets into society these days where rule after rule, fines, and extra taxes are piled on folk just minding their own business and trying to appreciate a quiet kind of life along side nature. Mans’ Best Friend? Guess that wouldn’t be the bylaw officers and the new deputy. Now, how about those awful people and their ponies?

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  4. I don’t have a dog, but if I did, I would violate the so called “leash law” as a matter of course because it is just a fascist law that deserves no respect! The last time I had a dog was a few decades ago, he was an albino golden retriever named “Bog”. We lived in Eastport, Maine which is Point Roberts counterpart on the other coast in that it too is a geographical anomaly. In Moose Island Maine where Eastport is, you can look south into Canada (Campobello Island, New Brunswick is just across the channel, south of Eastport.) Bog used to love to run free as the wind chasing ducks., seagulls, crows and other birds. Dogs should be allowed to BE dogs! He had a soft mouth and we went hunting in the marshes of NE Maine. He was a great retriever but it would have broken his spirit if he’d ever been subjected to the tyranny of a leash. He loved to retrieve huge logs that I’d heave out into the Bay of Fundy, and it was amazing how strong his jaws were and he had a massive head! He was about 120 lb of solid muscle from exercising all the time and from eating nothing but wild game. I was a bow hunter in those days and he’d always come hunting with me. I see people here all the time at the beach throwing balls out into the ocean for their dogs to retrieve. If I ever see a sheriff fining any of those people I will have angry words with him in defense of the dog owner, and if I were a dog owner who got fined for not having a dog on a leash, I would refuse to pay the fine, full stop. I agree with the complaints about speeders, as a cyclist I can’t even count the number of times some yahoo almost hit me going at speeds in excess of 50 mph around here. One time I was almost brushed by a car that had to be doing 70 mph on Johnson Rd. I always slow down to the speed limit or even lower when I see cyclists or pedestrians when I am driving because I try to live by the Golden Rule. It would be great if the Sheriffs here also tried to live by the Golden Rule rather than go into the realm of fascist dictators imposing absurd tickets just to meet some ridiculous “quota”, because we just don’t need that here. Dave Scott was an excellent Sheriff. He struck the right balance most of the time, and he had a great sense of humor! Thats an important trait for any law man to have because it helps in PR situations to difuse tension and avoid conflict, and there are plenty of situations like that for any sheriff! When the rubber met the road, Sheriff Dave was highly respected by most people here because he treated people with the proper respect and dignity and he didn’t abuse his power as a law enforcement officer. It would be GREAT if Loreen and McCarthy could learn from his great example and just get off the backs of the dog owners unless a dog is actually posing some legitimate menace to society because most of the time, they’re not!

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    • My family is from the Owl’s Head / Rockland Maine area. I am aware they have similar laws to the one’s we have here. I’ve been many many times;-all over the state and I agree it is quite beautiful there. I am not opposed to animals being off leash while supervised by their owners, as you have mentioned. I agree that some dogs can be off leash and still under the control and supervision of their owners, however; I do feel there is a time and a place for everything. Cheers.

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  5. How about a seasonal off leash time, such as from the middle of September
    Until April . Vancouver Parks do this and it works , so it should work here.
    Or certain days being off leash days such as Monday through Thursday’s
    When there are very few visitors here.

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    • I’ve lived here 11 years, before the I lived in Woodacre, CA a Redwood forest paradise with lots of family pets. I don’t have a dog now but as a resident I have not had a bad experience with any dogs here on the Point. A specific dog run location will be necessary if the Law intends to intercede in what is a normal life-style here. We know every dog’s name if we know the owner/partner. The law should not interfere with property rights, in other words if your pet is in your yard, you have the right to designate how that pet is allowed to experience their yard. It’s freaking depressing for a dog to be leased, tied up in their own yard much less while enjoying a walk/run with their human. It’s strange that we are hearing so many complaints now that there is a new sheriff in town. Normally we would hold a Town Hall at the Community Center and devise a plan that works for everyone. The laying down the law to the folks who have lived here for years without engaging them in a polite, productive manner (as has been the case) is not going to make for good relationships in the community. The sheriff’s department needs the co operation of the community….please keep that in mind.

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      • Well said John. There is also the fact that many dogs behave perfectly offleash and ‘sort out’ their troubles with other dogs without fighting but the minute they’re leashed they feel vulnerable and trapped and then can get grumpy with each other. If people don’t like being in the countryside around animals perhaps they need to move in to city. All the little foofoo dogs there are probably leashed and everyone is ‘safe’ ….. Sheriffs need to concentrate on actual CRIMES.

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        • I’m confused, isn’t it a Crime when one is attacked and injured by an out of control dog? Or is it simply a civil lawsuit opportunity? I think this is the law in all districts rural and urban in Whatcom County. My wife has a foufou dog that she had before hooking up with me. Together we adopted a midsize Mexican rescue who is a bit uncomfortable around new people. So do we need to move off the Point? Or is our tax cheque still cashable here? Advice needed…… We have added NO Trespassing signs to our property for large meandering dogs on leash or not, especially if owned by a package person who dump both cardboard and dog feces. Dogs cant read, maybe their owners can.

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      • Exactly, Suzanne

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  6. I have a small, very friendly, shy dog. It is always a challenge to go for walks whether on or off leash. Large dogs are intimidating and the best way for dogs to greet is always OFF LEASH. A dog on a leash feels threatened by a dog who is off leash.

    If we are going to enforce laws to prevent dogs from running off leash then as a community we also have to provide a “dog friendly” park for them to run freely.

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  7. i have two senior dogs (13+) so long walks and runs don’t even count anymore. They sit on my property, basking in the sun, unleashed and so happy to be in Point Roberts. Lets not turn this bucolic respite into an Orwellian nightmare. Issue tickets where due ie to aggressive dogs and their owners, complaints thereof, and those owners who don’t protect their dogs from committing unsocial behaviours. Focus on your easier county revenue – speeding bullets along the main drag, not this tawdry business of chasing dog owners…..!

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  8. Patricia McCairen September 18, 2015, 4:28 am

    I find it ironic that this came about because Canadians complained about our dogs being off leash. When I have walked my dog(s) on their side of the border I have rarely seen any of them following the leash laws in their own country. As guests in Point Roberts I think they are out of line complaining about the traditions and behavior of local residents.
    As for the two deputies…didn’t I read that they were going to see how things were done here before enforcing their rules on us. Obviously, they didn’t mean it.
    At the present time, I am on crutches and a knee scooter both of which make it impossible for me to have my dog on a leash. As a result of all this, I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

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    • In response to the comment about “Canadians coming here and complaining…” For the record, I am an American Citizen and I currently live in Point Roberts year round. Yes I grew up in Canada but that point I feel is irrelevant. I’ve been attacked too many times by stray animals on the Point while walking and cycling with and without my dog, and I thought it was time I spoke up about it because after the last time I was quite shaken up about it. I’ve received nothing but praise from everyone here on the Point that read the article(all of whom own dogs by the way.) I apologize for any inconvenience the new bout of enforcement has caused people. That was not the intention of my article. If you read it you also probably read the part about how I am not one to involve the authorities in things. -They did that on their own, and it sounds like the issue was already on their radar. I hope they will focus more on education and less on citations in the future. Sincerely, Ian Furstrand.

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  9. The beaches of Point Roberts govern themselves when it comes to dogs. The dogs that are friendly and under control are always off leash. The dogs that are sometimes a challenge to their owners are always on leash. I don’t really see that there is a problem that requires deputy intervention. Seems like a colossal waste of law enforcement to me.

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    • I think the deputies should concentrate more on real issues like cars and noisy motorcycles speeding on the Point. If a dog has attacked someone then go to that specific owner and give him/her a warning. Treat case by case and don’t punish all our friendly dogs because of few ones that are unfriendly.

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  10. Kinda curious what the Sheriff would do with a border collie herding sheep…. ; – 0

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  11. One of my dogs was attacked and almost killed by a dog at large at Lily Point a few years ago. My other little blind dog (her sister) was attacked in her own yard last summer by an out of control dog at large. Both times the owners were indignant. Living by the beach, I have seen many dogs running on the street, bounding to or from the beach out of sight of their owners who are often trailing behind, It is disappointing for the safety of these dogs to see that many of these owners are not carrying a visible leash. I have heard many times “don’t worry, my dog is friendly”. These words are little comfort when the dog is running up to one who has been attacked before, be they a small child, a small dog or a cyclist.
    10 citations does not seem like a lot out of the hundreds of dogs that come here
    Also, Im sure I read in the article that the Sheriff gave warnings for two months with little or no change, then the enforcement began. That approach seems reasonable to me. I for one, am proud of our Sheriff for enforcing the law. Dog owners don’t act this way on the other side of the border and they need to respect this side too.
    To put things in perspective, people did not want to wear seat belts initially either, but they are necessary for the safety of everyone.

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    • Hi Shirley, it’s interesting that not one person I know or have talked to at the Point, were ever warned or made aware that the leash bylaw was going to be enforced starting in September. We are there often and were there almost every weekend in the summer and never heard of such a thing til the first ticket was issued Labour Day weekend.

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  12. Last June, I made what I thought was a legitimate complaint to the local authority about a man who threatened me with physical violence and bodily harm. This was the third time I had felt threatened by this person. Last time I checked, that is considered a crime in Washington State. Really, all I wanted was someone in authority to issue a warning to the man. The person I spoke to in authority did NOT focus on it, instead told me that it’s “just a grumpy old man”, and did nothing to help me. Sorry I am off topic, but aren’t police here to “protect and serve”? My dog has been getting his running exercise by playing football in our yard, however, I feel that I must start walking a lot faster on leash for my dog’s benefit. Some people should be on a leash..lol.

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  13. Just another thought: wondering if tickets will be issued to coyotes. They are dogs and they are off leash. They do roam the entire area here night and day. I see them walking down our street all the time.

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  14. I’d just like to know why there isn’t a “Like” button anymore. I agree with many things said here but why fill the page with “Oh, I agree”.

    Personally, I find the visiting summer dogs are more of a nuisance. They’re mostly good dogs but there are just so many of them that it seems worse than it is. I would hazard a guess and say that the complaints received by the Sheriff’s office occurred in the summer.

    And yes, please focus on the speeders.

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  15. Lily Point Park is a beautiful quasi wilderness. To have dogs on a leash in this area is just silly. Laws need to be reasonable to the populace or you risk destroying the basis for rule of law. Police cannot really enforce the rule of law, the citizens collectively enforce it. The off leash law is good to have in situations where there is a problem but to just blindly enforce this law risks destroying the environment in Point Roberts that everyone here enjoys.

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