HERGOTT: Another dog attack in the Okanagan

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

Another off leash dog has attacked, this time seriously injuring a smaller dog. The attack occurred May 4, 2020, on a trail on Conkle Mountain in Summerland. The large dog reportedly clamped onto the backside of a Havanese named Salsa and shook her back and forth like a rag doll.

Our outdated laws will make it difficult to hold the larger dog’s owner accountable for the vet bills, currently over $2,000.00. The owner apparently said they thought their dog would be ok off leash. Our antiquated laws require proof that the owner was aware of their pet’s dangerous disposition.

But compensation laws are about mopping up messes that are usually completely avoidable.

Like this one.

Dog attacks, where one dog attacks another while on a walk with their owners, would not occur if dog owners followed basic dog walking etiquette.

I shouldn’t say “basic”. It took a bit of googling for me to learn about it.

But only a bit. And on reading a couple articles on the subject it boils down to common sense.

The key etiquette guidelines, apart from “scoop your poop”?

Always leash your dog.

And get consent from others, including other dog walkers, before letting your dog have contact with the other person or other dog.

This might sound like it comes out of left field, but I will briefly tell the story of a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce event I attended last year.

I had received an award on behalf of Hergott Law. As the event was winding down, I sought out the judges to thank them for their volunteer contributions.

When greeting people in a warm way, my instinct is to reach out to warmly shake the hands of men and to extend my arms to embrace the women.

One woman judge had to recoil and dodge to the side to avoid me! It was a wake up moment for this old dinosaur. I was completely clueless to the possibility that I might be making anyone uncomfortable. I wonder what multitude of women in my past have withstood the discomfort of my warm embrace so as to avoid the awkwardness of a recoil / dodge.

An analogy can be drawn with dog owner.

We love our pets. And we know them (or think we do) really well. When people come to my door, my dogs are thrown into a yapping frenzy. I regularly say “Don’t worry – they just want to be petted”, without physically restraining them.

However 100 percent certain I might be that my dogs wouldn’t hurt a mouse, the person at the door might have had a previous bad experience with a dog, have an allergy or simply not enjoy a little yapper sniffing at their feet. I wonder how many of those people have felt uncomfortable because of my failure to physically restrain my little yappers.

The articles I read very effectively articulate the “common sense” around this issue. E-mail me and I will send you links.

A neat video on point:

Unless you have cleared it with them in advance, allowing your dog to come in contact with anyone, or their dog, is just plain rude.

But the world of dog walkers seems as clueless as I had been. On some walks around our neighbourhood in Rose Valley, more dogs are off leash than on. And they regularly come sniffing around.

Is there a way to smarted up the world of dog owners as effectively as the “me too” movement has helped smarted up men?

Next week I will discuss that puzzle. I will also review how dog bylaws fit, hand in glove, with common sense etiquette.

Missed last week’s column?

HERGOTT: Accountability of being a pet owner

About Paul Hergott, Personal Injury Lawyer:

Paul began practicing law in 1995 in a general litigation practice. Of the various areas of litigation, he became most drawn to and passionate about pursuing fair compensation for personal injury victims, which has gradually became his exclusive area of practice. Paul’s practice is restricted to acting only for the injured victim, never for ICBC nor for other insurance companies.

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