Before you answer that question let’s see if I can set the scene for you, one I’ve experienced one too many times hiking in the Adirondacks. It’s a beautiful day for an adventure, you and your spouse throw your gear in the car and head off to hit the trail. You’re having a great time, the Fall colors are beautiful, you don’t have a care in the world, walking, chatting, enjoying the scenery. Suddenly without warning 4 dogs are charging you at full speed, some barking, some growling. They stop abruptly only a few feet away in a definite aggressive posture, baring their teeth, the hair on their back is raised. You freeze in your tracks and for a several tense seconds your wondering if your going to be mauled in the middle of the trail on a beautiful day. A half a minute later the dogs owner rounds the corner and you hear him say “Oh, don’t worry they’re friendly”.
I do want to state right off the bat that I’m not a dog hater but I am neither a dog lover. Twice in the past 10 months my wife and I have been harassed by dogs on the trail. The above mentioned incident happened last October on a hike down to the confluence of where the Indian River meets the Hudson. A few weeks back we were at the Indian again, this time fly fishing coming back out on one of the access trails to the river. We weren’t far from the road when this time three large dogs charged us again stopping just a few feet in front of us growling and barking. The owner, this time an older woman gave a half hearted command to the dogs to stop nearly a full minute later. Again she was no where in sight on our initial contact with her dogs. It wasn’t until she walked by us that the dogs stopped their aggressive behavior and followed her. No apologies, no nothing!
Just yesterday on a hike into the newly open trail to OK Slip Falls we weren’t on the trail more than 10 minutes when a large dog sprinted towards us from the rear. This one was friendly, we knew that how? because his owner yelled to us from a few hundred feet back “he’s friendly”, but does that make it alright? We encountered 3 other dogs running freely on the trail that day. We didn’t have an incident with any of them but yet we still had to wonder if we were going to and like the other times we were confronted by dogs the owners were no where in sight. The last dog we came upon was leashed and I made it a point to commend the young guy with the dog for having the courtesy to leash his animal.
Did I forget to mention my wife was mauled by a dog as a child?
In my opinion and from my experience there should be a mandatory leash law in the Adirondacks on any and all trails inside the park on public land. Dog owners may think their dogs are cute running up to people but they aren’t. I don’t own a dog, I’m not hiking with a dog so why would I want to deal with your dog? I don’t care if your dog is friendly, I don’t want to be friends with him. It’s obvious from my experience that some people shouldn’t even own dogs let alone be allowed on public trails with them when they actually pose a risk of injury to myself or someone else.
For you dog owners that are reading this shaking your head saying “this isn’t my dog”, it is your dog. Unless your dog is leashed this is your dog and I do not want to interact with your dog period! We have discussed carrying a canister of mace on future hikes. I will not have a problem macing the next canine that decides to charge at me, but really why should it be my worry to do that? Show some consideration and respect for others on the trail and leash your dog.
Currently as far as my research shows there is only a leash law for part of the Eastern High Peaks area and no dogs are allowed whatsoever on AMR trails. The fine for having a dog off the leash in the high peaks is a mere $15.00, far too little to get the point across to dog owners who don’t obey the law. It seems like a no brainer to institute a leash law throughout the whole of the Adirondack Trail System. Is there any less chance that an unleashed dog will bite someone on Mt. Marcy than the trail to the Blue Ledges?
So to answer my own question, “should there be a leash law in the Adirondacks?” My answer is a definite YES!
Please feel free to leave your opinion on the issue in the comment section below.