Last week's column on the increasing number of irresponsible people who let their dogs run off leash, along with not cleaning up after them, unleashed a huge amount of reader mail.
Essentially all of it was positive, which I found very refreshing.
One person wrote, "Thank you very much for writing about this subject. I would imagine you'll get plenty of rude e-mails from dog owners."
I did expect a bit of that. Then again, the laws and boundaries are so crystal clear on this issue, it's essentially indefensible. So maybe the violators, like the many I've spoken with on the trail, are choosing to just ignore the issue altogether.
I wanted to share portions of the many messages sent to me to illustrate just how widespread these problems are becoming. I knew it was an issue, but clearly many besides me are fed up with the amount of people who knowingly break leash laws and also deliberately don't pick up after their dogs.
Many times it's one in the same person. These are not people who do it accidentally, and the proof is in their arrogant reactions when challenged on it.
"As a fellow dog lover and having worked in the small animal health field for 11 years, I share your frustration," Laura wrote. "Regardless of how well trained their dog is on or off leash, that does not matter. Consideration for others should be in their mind as well. Just because their dog behaves themselves off leash, who is to say that a dog they approach won't attack? How about small children or anyone who has had a bad experience with dogs? Does the off-leash dog know not to approach the person?"
"Thank you for the article in today's paper," Nancy wrote. "I frequently walk on the trails you mentioned, and this has been a longtime pet peeve of mine. As a dog owner, I just about have a heart attack every time one of these unleashed dogs approach my dog. Usually it is accompanied by the owner yelling to me, 'It's OK, they're friendly,' as I'm thinking, 'That's nice, but how do you know mine is?'"
Common sense, right?
There were many more that dealt with this theme of "It doesn't matter if you think your dog is fine, I'd still rather not be bothered by you or your dog and I am entitled to that right." I think some people forget that we have a right to be left alone if we want and should not have to deal directly with someone else's animal.
I also heard from someone who, recently, was nearby when a coyote snatched a small dog from a lawn in front of the dog's own house. The dog was off-leash, the owner was inside the house and never even had a chance to protect their pet. It's easy to become complacent, but many people in Huntington Beach do in fact live near areas where predatory animals have been squeezed to the point that they do wander into yards and through neighborhoods.
Another issue that people were fired up about, beyond leashes — and this topic may see its own column one day soon — was the issue of cleaning up after dogs. It seems our neighborhood is not unique in that there are many other places besieged with more and more owners who refuse to clean up after their dogs. It isn't just unsightly, it's unsanitary, and whatever parks we visit in Huntington Beach these days, that seems to be a growing problem as well.
As I related in last week's column, if you want to report the owners of unleashed dogs, or people who don't clean up after their dogs, call OC Animal Care directly at (714) 935-6848 or via the Huntington Beach Police Department. From there, a patrol will be set up in the reported area.
To everyone else who has written to me on this issue, thank you for the supportive messages. It shows that this is not some isolated problem but rather a widespread, constant and ongoing issue that I hope more people will start to address directly.
Lastly, the day last week's column came out, I was walking the Brightwater trail. In the protected area, what looked like an off-leash husky emerged from the bushes, evidently chasing a rabbit or something. I looked around for the owner, who finally emerged yelling to the dog, "Git it, git it."
Like the drone I've become, I asked, "You know there's a leash law?"
He replied laughingly as he trotted off with his dog, "There are leash laws all over the country. So what?"
That's the attitude we're going up against — the "so what?"
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at email@example.com.