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Runners, cyclists urged to beware of dogs on roads

September 03, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY - After a sudden rash of calls about dogs chasing or attacking people along public roads, the Humane Society of Washington County is reminding people to be aware of their surroundings while walking, jogging or biking.

The organization has received about 10 calls about confrontations with aggressive dogs in the past two weeks, including at least two calls about attacks, Humane Society of Washington County director Paul Miller said.

The complaints have come from all over the county, he said. Some of the dogs appear to have been running loose, while others have escaped fenced yards. One biker reported his handlebars were bent when a dog jumped on them on a road in Hagerstown.

"We're getting a little concerned," said Katherine Cooker, Humane Society spokeswoman.

In addition to the threat of an attack, the sudden appearance of a dog poses the risk of causing a startled biker to swerve into traffic, Miller said.

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"If you're jogging or walking or riding along the side of a roadway, not expecting this to happen, and you see a dog come out after you, it's probably going to happen really quick, and you're going to react," Miller said. "That's human nature."

That's why he encourages bikers and joggers to stay aware of what's ahead of them, behind them and beside them, much as they would if they were behind the wheel of a car.

"A lot of people run with headsets on," Miller said. "If you do that, your eyes should still be working and taking in the whole environment and what your options are."

If a dog appears ready to chase, it's never a good idea to run, Miller said.

"Unless you're really, really fast, you can't outrun a dog," he said. "Even some bicyclists can't outrun a dog."

Dog owners, too, need to take an active part in preventing confrontations with dogs, Miller said.

"I think, sometimes, people don't realize the potential of their dogs," he said. "They may be fine with their family and neighbors, but a bicycle is a moving object that triggers the prey-chase instinct in the dog, and that happens really fast."

When a dog runs loose from its property, the owner may be cited for violating the county's animal control ordinance, which carries a $25 fine for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $250 for a third offense.

"Dogs react to things due to instinct, so keep them current on their rabies shots, keep them licensed and keep them on your own property so people can enjoy the outdoors," Miller said. "Washington County is very pretty, and people should be able to enjoy that."

Anyone concerned about a dog displaying aggressive behavior is urged to call the Humane Society of Washington County at 301-733-2060.

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