Enforce leash laws

The owner of a dog that injured two other animals in Belmont — and bit one of their owners — may deserve some credit.

It appears the owner was trying to comply with the village rule requiring that all dogs be on leashes when they are not on their own property.

But, as Belmont Mayor Stan Sobel reported this week, the aggressor animal, a German shepherd, broke the chain used to confine it and went on something of a rampage Sunday. It bit two other dogs, injuring both badly. When the owner of one of them tried to pick up his dog, the German shepherd bit him.

Sobel said he is uncertain what action will be taken against the German shepherd’s owner. He noted he had been advised by the village solicitor that dog-on-dog attacks are not criminal matters.

But when a dog bites a man, criminal law probably does take effect.

And it remains unclear at this point whether the owner of the aggressor dog will be cited. If that occurs, Sobel is unsure whether the case would come before him in Mayor’s Court, or if it would be heard at the Belmont County level in Western Division Court.

“Personally, I think we’ve got too many dogs loose in the village, and this is a good example of what happens … People need to have their dogs on a leash or tied up,” Sobel remarked.

Indeed they do.

Where municipalities have leash laws, they need to be enforced. In communities such as Belmont, where a village-wide walking initiative has been in place for a couple of years, such ordinances may be even more important.

Some consideration should be given to good-faith efforts by owners to control their pets. But repeat offenders should be fined.

Very few dogs of any breed are truly vicious.

But leash laws are intended to guard against precisely the type of trouble that occurred in Belmont. Unless they are enforced, they are of no value, however.