My youngest dog, Chance, should have been named Houdini. During the first seven of our 11 years together, he mastered the art of escaping.
I became comic relief as my neighbors watched me chase him down my street in dresses and high heels and pajamas and slippers. Thankfully, I — and not the police — always caught him quickly.
In addition to being maddening, Chance’s escapades were against city ordinance, which states no dogs, cats or other domestic animals shall be permitted to run at large in the city limits. (So, hopefully, the city attorney isn’t reading this.) Running at large is being off the owner’s premises and not under control of its owner or another person.
Since June of last year, the Eau Claire Police Department has responded to 1,069 reports of animals at large or in custody by someone other than their owner, according to data shared by Bridget Coit, one of the department’s public information officers.
Just last week a city employee was bit by a dog in one of Eau Claire’s parks, Coit said. The owner was present but did not have the dog on a leash. City ordinance requires all domestic animals, including dogs and cats, to be on a leash when off their owners’ premises.
If an animal is at large, its owner can be ticketed for $213.10, Coit said. Citations are issued depending on the circumstances of each individual case, though. Some factors taken into consideration are how and why an animal is at large, whether it has been at large before and if its owners have been warned in the past.
Several months ago, I was on my way home when I saw a dog running in and out of traffic on Main Street. Both myself and Heather Mishefske, owner of emBARK, stopped to grab the dog so he wouldn’t get hit by a car.
While Heather enticed him with a treat so she could get a leash on him, I called the police. Before an animal control officer could arrive, a neighbor recognized the dog, and he was returned to his owner, who didn’t realize he was on the loose.
If anyone finds an animal running at large in Eau Claire, Coit advises calling the Eau Claire City-County Communications Center at 715-839-4972 to report it.
“Our animal control officers have the proper tools to work with the animals, get them to safety and, if appropriate, return them to their owners,” Coit said.