Dogs & Children
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2021 14:55:53 -0700 (PDT)
The missing element in this discussion is children. Adults too, but adults are 
(often) more predictable.

First check your local laws. You can’t go against these without incurring 
liability for the whole community if you have a home owner association. The 
“owner” of the land is the responsible party. Our pet policy would have been 
resolved years earlier if we had both checked the law and talked to animal 
control to find out what it meant in the context of a condominium.

Stories:

1. I was caring for twin boys who were just learning to walk —16 months or so. 
On the way out of the CH, the better walker Adrian went ahead while I walked 
more slowly holding Emile’s hand. The destination was a strip of sidewalk with 
a slope just steep enough to be a challenge and a triumph to a new walker. It 
was on the other side of a bank of stairs so I was not able to see Adrian for 
1-2 minutes.

When Emile and I rounded the stairs, right next to the sidewalk was an elderly 
dog (a large lab mix) leashed to a light pole and sleeping. No owner or other 
adult in sight. I panicked. The dog had a serious hip problem and couldn’t 
walk. If Adrian had raced over to hug her, he would surely have tripped and 
fallen on her. He could even have fallen on her while just navigating the 
sidewalk. The dog would have been in a lot of pain and would have fought back. 
Adrian would most likely have been seriously disfigured—he was not agile enough 
to stand up and run away. The dog was not supposed to be there without an adult 
(DC law says someone over age 14) even though leashed.

2. One summer evening about 3 children age 5-6 and 3 dogs were running around 
in a circle on the green, all of them laughing and huffing and tail wagging, 
going faster and faster. It was a lovely scene but out of control. I was 
looking around for parents when a guest asked me who was in charge. She said, 
"We breed and train dogs. We would never allow our dogs to do this.” The energy 
level was very high and it was noisy with kids laughing and screaming. A 
totally unpredictable escalating situation.

None of the dogs were pets of any of the children. If they had been there might 
be more predictability based on experience but none of these dogs lived with 
children. They were obviously enjoying them, but the situation was just too 
high energy and unusual to be safe. Certainly not with no adults standing there 
to intervene if a problem occurred. 

Common spaces are not like front yards. You can’t predict who will be there 
besides your animal. An accident or even a purposeful trigger wouldn’t be the 
animal’s fault, but the child would still be disfigured. 

Someone has to make the call who takes precedence. Not all dog owners agree 
that children’s safety comes before a dog’s freedom.

Sharon
——
Sharon Villines, Washington DC
“It’s not writing that is so hard; it’s all the thinking it requires.” — David 
McCullough

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