Walking a dog off leash is not one of those harmless crimes.
Aside from so many stories I've heard of leashed skittish dogs being approached by “friendly” dogs off leash, consider the incident last week at Geauga Park District when a woman and her dog were threatened by a coyote.
Geauga Park District, where I work, has a leash policy in all its parks, but Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge Township is a park where many folks bring their dogs to walk off leash, despite potential fines and a convenient designated off-leash area near the parking lot.
This particular coyote and its mate were protecting a nearby den with five tiny pups, not so uncommon between January and June. No one was hurt, a portion of the trail was temporarily closed, and the coyote parents have since moved their den to another location out of the park.
But please, don't assume coyotes don't live in your neighborhood or in your favorite park. They probably do.
Coyotes are known to live in all 88 Ohio counties, some traveling from town to town, some finding regular locations to call home. Regional biologists study them by their yips, howls and barks all the time; Metro Parks, Serving Summit County even tracks them with radio collars.
It's true that they may take out a cat or, less often, a small breed of dog.
However, coyotes prefer small mammal meals of mouse, rabbit or vole — and to understand these wild canines is to keep your own pets safe.
Take cats. Coyotes tend to be the least of outdoor cats' worries, after cars, dogs, diseases and poisons that could quickly betray your belief that it's cruel to keep them indoors.
In the case of outdoor cats, however, The Humane Society of the United States recommends you feed them at a set time during the day, prefereably elevated beyond coyotes' reach, and remove leftovers immediately. Also, a responsible outdoor cat owner will provide an escape route for outdoor cats (in treeless or open areas, erect “cat posts,” four inch-by-four inch wooden posts at least 10 to 12 feet high) that a cat can climb, but not a coyote.
Attacks happen less often against dogs that aren't infringing on a coyote's territory, but a small dog is obviously more vulnerable tied up or unattended in an open space, especially with food or water nearby.
For more tips of chasing a coyote off, or “coyote hazing,” visit this website.
And please do your dog a favor and put that leash on, even if she pulls — she'll stop — with respect for beautiful wild animals who do their best to silently share our space.