13 May 2015
Whose rights are more compelling – those of dog owners eager to give their beloved pets some leash-free exploration in Fluvanna County’s Pleasant Grove park or those of other park users who become nervous – or even injured – when accosted by strange dogs?
Neither, say county staff, who are deep in the process of trying to solve one of government’s most ancient conundrums – how to balance the conflicting rights and desires of two groups of people.
The issue stems from the ambiguity of the current leash rule at Pleasant Grove, which calls for dogs to remain on-leash in “high-volume areas.”
“It’s too much of a gray area,” said Jason Smith, director of parks and recreation. “Depending on who you ask you’re going to get a different definition of what the policy means.”
Lending urgency to the situation is the fact that unleashed dogs have attacked humans and other dogs at Pleasant Grove. Paul Sheridan, Fluvanna’s animal control officer, said that there have been three incidents with unleashed dogs coming after girls on the high school track team running through the park. “It’s a persistent problem,” he said. In two of the three situations a dog bit a running girl, and in the third situation a girl was almost bitten, he said.
Another time three dogs approached a man who had previously been attacked by dogs, said Sheridan. The man, nervous from past experience, reported being pinned against the woods. “The owner got there before anything happened,” Sheridan said.
Unleashed dogs can also attack other dogs. In one recent incident, an unleashed dog injured another dog badly enough that the attacked dog needed stitches and drain tubes, said Sheridan.