‘Don’t worry, he’s friendly’

Rebecca Lara and friend

On Jan. 16, I saw the neighbor’s kids playing across the street and two kids riding by on their bicycles. A large Akita, described as the “silent hunter” by the American Kennel Club, was loose once again running from house to house.

Fearful for the children, I went outside to return him as I have done before.  As usual, I extended my arm allowing him to smell my scent, petted his head once, then extended my arm to hold onto his collar.  His quiet demeanor changed into a low growl lunging for my throat.  My hand quickly blocked his bite but he grasped on crushing my hand shaking it vigorously.  My loud screaming caused my husband and the dog’s owner to run out to the street.

My husband called me to his side.  While I was walking toward him, his facial expression went from concern to absolute fear.  Dave quickly shouted “Look Out!” I then saw the Akita in mid-air towering down on my body.  I felt his paws hitting my back. Rather than retrieving his dog, the owner seemed to try to escape liability by continuously asking if I was okay.

As a founder of RPMT, this attack is one of the many reasons we have supported the Dog Leash Code. We receive 30-40 emails a day complaining about the unleashed dogs at Rossmoor Parks.  Also, residents complain that elementary schools have turned into “unofficial dog parks.”  Feces are left behind from off leashed dogs for children to side step on schoolyards.  When advised to leash their dogs, they become irate and combative.  It is not uncommon to hear an owner of an unleashed dog state “my dog has a right to run around free!”  Of course, they always throw in the line “Don’t Worry, He’s Friendly!”

Two years ago we approached RCSD and Los Alamitos School District concerning the unleashed dogs on schoolyards and Rossmoor’s Parks.  Both stated that “their hands were tied,” but they would support our efforts.  We were not shocked that these agencies don’t want to be to be the bad guys but rather have somebody else take responsibility.  RPMT has also received numerous e-mails from pet owners that state they are responsible pet owners and do allow their dogs off leash due to the fact that their pets are well trained and they pick up after their dogs.

Unfortunately, the Orange County Leash Code applies to all dogs that are off leash regardless of whether the owner is responsible or irresponsible.  When the California Highway Patrol stops you for going 75 mph, they only ask to see your license and registration, not if you’re a good driver.

There is a movement among Rossmoor residents to request that a dog park be established to allow dogs to be off leash.  Arbor Dog Park is located at 4665 Lampson, Los Alamitos.  However, Rossmoor residents would like a dog park in their own community.  The questions arises: where would it be located, who will pay and maintain it, who is going to pay for the liability insurance and permits?  We hope those who would like a dog park will pursue this with the community and the Rossmoor Community Services District.  Be aware until you get a dog park, the words “Don’t Worry, He’s Friendly” will not escape a $276 citation.

Rebecca Lara is a founding member of the Rossmoor Predator Management Team.