Dogs on trails: leashed or unleashed?

Sarah Blow photo

by Sarah Blow, Community News Service

Mad River Valley trailwalkers recently discussed a topic of interest to many Vermonters: should hikers leash their dogs?

The Dogs on Trails Community Forum took place Tuesday evening, March 22, hosted by Ross Saxton, the executive director of the Mad River Path Association. The forum was held via Zoom and consisted of 23 participants from The Valley and beyond.

A main issue brought up by the group was how to keep dogs on leashes and whether leases should be required at all.

Alice Peal, a dog owner from Waitsfield, expressed concern over leash enforcement as a result of an incident she experienced where her dog was attacked by unleashed dogs.

She also expressed concerns over her own health if an unleashed dog were to approach her.

“I’m not as active as I used to be both from an illness and just getting older and I also have to be extremely careful because dogs can be friendly but they can also jump, leashed or not leashed and if I fall over, I break something,” Peal said.

Other dog owners argued the importance of off-leash exercise for their canine companions and themselves, particularly during activities where leashing might be difficult.

Rob McNeish, a fellow Waitsfield dog owner, loves to enjoy the outdoors with his dog, but finds leash requirements constricting.

“I will admit I let my dog off leash. He’s a very high energy dog and I can’t imagine how either of us would fare if I had to keep him on a leash all the time,” he said.

Eve Silverman, a dog owner from Fayston and volunteer with “For the Love of Dogs Vermont,” stressed the need for balance between those who support dogs being leashed and those who would like to see more relaxed restrictions in place.

Silverman raised the idea of creating a dog park in The Valley to provide a designated area where dogs can safely be off leash as opposed to on the trails. 

“I do take my dog up to the Waterbury Dog Park but it’s a schlep and it would be really great to have something in The Valley,” she said.

Silverman’s suggestion was well received and the Mad River Path Association has already begun the process of creating a dog park committee. 

Forum participants including Mark Haberle, trail chief of the Mad River Valley Backcountry Coalition also stressed the need for more educational opportunities for dog owners to ensure all proper rules and requirements are being followed on the trails.

“I believe that most folks with animals do want to bring their animals to the right places at the right times and with respect. When you cross multiple land ownerships while you’re traveling along a trail it’s hard to know whether dogs are allowed or not so I think information dissemination is important,” he said.

Saxton, the facilitator of the Dogs on Trails Community Forum, found the discussion incredibly helpful and will be using the information to create a survey so those who were unable to attend the meeting can share their opinions. 

Original story can be found at the Valley Reporter.

Categories: Environment

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8 replies »

  1. Responsible owners will not let an unleashed dog be a menace. Trained dogs are fine off-leash. If your dog cannot walk by people or other dogs without being a problem, by all means they should be leashed.

  2. Just like people dogs are losing their rights too.

    Make no mistake it’s the same mentality and some of those people would put you on a leash too.

  3. Dogs will be dogs. Dogs, even a Chihuahua have more in common genetically with a wolf than most people realize. Dogs are hunting machines, they love it, it’s what they live for. Unless a dog has a recently filled stomach, they are looking for food. Whether it’s a beagle looking for rabbits, or a mutt in a city knocking over garbage cans, or a German Shepard out for a walk with it’s human on a trail that is not getting the attention that it deserves, and subsequently goes looking for food, and entertainment, and comes across a fresh deer track, or steps in a trap, you need to be the brains of this dynamic duo. Dogs off of a leash unattended are looking for trouble, that is what they do. The human as the hopefully “smarter” half of the duo need to control their charge . Keep them on a leash !

    • How would you like to be chained up everywhere you go?

      There are dogs that should be on a leash for sure because they don’t behave and cause problems. This can be from a multitude of issues usually neglect and abuse, but sometimes it’s just that dog.
      To say that all dogs need to be on a leash is ridiculous. Some dogs are so good that just a whistle in mid chase they will come right back to you. It should be up to the owner to decide what kind of a dog that they have and to decide if that dog needs to be leashed or not. The owner is already responsible for everything that the dog does legally, so it’s their liability already.

      Your fear is not my problem, and I’ll certainly not leash my dog because you think a chihuahua is like a wolf.

      There are much more dangerous things than dogs in the woods Patrick so maybe you should stay out of the woods.

      • Brian, How many times have you been patiently waiting 12-15 feet up a tree, or in a ground blind for a deer to get close enough to you so that if you judged the deer worthy, you could place a well aimed shot with your bow so you could have venison for the freezer, only to have a neighborhood dog spook it on you ? You don’t need to answer that, we both know the answer. I, on the other hand, really can’t answer that because I have lost count ! Okay, how many deer have you found in the woods that had been killed, and barely feed on if at all, because domestic dogs do this for fun, they are rarely that hungry, and in need of food that they do more than kill them, rip off some hide, and go home, and wait for their master to let them in for some Alpo. The coyotes love domestic dogs though, they leave the deer carcasses for them to clean up. How often have you had to pick up the contents of your trash can that has been strewn all over your driveway, and street ? Should home owners have to police their lawns of poo left like a rude calling card by dogs which are not theirs ? By the way I am a dog person, but I took my responsibilities as such seriously. I used to raise beagles. None of my beagles got into trash, or chased deer. When I walked them they were on a leash so as not to be an issue for anybody but their owner. (me) So Brian when you anthropomorphise by saying “dogs are losing their rights too” You do realize that the “rights” enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, belong to humans, right ?

      • Sounds like you got a case of crappy neighbors… I need to take your hunting to more wide open land (admittedly this is getting harder in Vermont).

        Why penalize those of us who take care of our dog and don’t let it run off into the woods and chase deer?

        Why not put the responsibility on the owner of the dog, why must it always penalize everyone else because of the actions of a few.

        The rights in the Constitution are given by God, and enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The same God that created dogs.

  4. The majority of rural VT communities don’t even possess leash laws. VT has always attempted to allow dogs to walk or run without restraint as they need in so many places – with only laws that require their owners to have them under “voice control/command”. They shouldn’t be running freely without supervision as such is irresponsible & potentially dangerous for them, for wildlife, for other dogs, etc. Why not simply leave this common law the way it is? Why punish all responsible dog owners for the sins of the minority?

    If only all pet owners & hikers & motorists (on and off road) & hunters were responsible and accountable, perhaps more & more & yet more rules and regs & laws wouldn’t need to be enacted. Freedom and unity. Freedom isn’t free and unity requires responsibility & cooperation.

    Dogs aren’t the problem. Dog owners are oft the problem.

  5. Leash your dog, license your pet, wear the mask, get tested, take the shot, do not enter unless masked and vax’d, cannot work unless masked, tested, and vax’d, fly this flag, don’t fly this flag, support Ukraine, stay home, don’t go to church, go to Walmart, buy an EV, teach your kids to be trans, teach your white kids they are racist….control and mandated compliance of every facet of every life. Welcome to communist/marxist Pervmont. A small, bully pulpit minority is making this State unlivable and unsustainable. Take your dog for a walk at your own peril because the thought police are watching you!

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