Dog's Bite More Costly Than Its Bark

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In a town where the residents are sufficiently pet-conscious to put a full year's effort into the creation of an off-leash dog park, it's surprising to learn that there is at least one local canine booster who is unfamiliar with the No. 1 responsibility of pet ownership.

One week before the park's recent grand opening, this fellow who had just gained membership into Paws in the Park, a group of dog lovers that organized the project chose to take early advantage of the town's newest facility. During this visit, his dog sank its teeth into the hip of another dog owner deeply enough to necessitate a trip to the hospital.

That's not the outrageous thing. "Dog bites man" is the oldest headline in the history of small-town newspapers, and you have to accept the fact that, in an off-leash park, dogs will be biting men with some regularity. It happens.

In this case, the outrage is that the owner of the biting dog tried to blame his pet's behavior on the man who was bitten and then magnanimously offered to pay only 50 percent of the victim's medical bills.

Sorry, pal. You're dead wrong.

And not just because there's a sign at the entrance of the off-leash park which states, among other rules, "Park users are legally liable for the acts and behavior of their dog(s) at all times."

For the benefit of those who weren't in the area when this particular chunk of common sense was handed out: It is your job, as a dog owner, to train and socialize your pet; to protect people from being hurt by your pet; and to take full responsibility should those efforts fail in any public place, in any public situation.

As world-renowned dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse used to say, "There are no bad dogs, only bad owners."

Let's just hope there's not more than one of them living in Payson.

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