Camping lovers with dogs beware. Even the woods aren’t safe against officers with guns. The U.S. Forest Service is out there, and they may not take kindly to finding you out in the woods with an off-leash dog. As it turns out, leash laws must be followed according to the area you’re camping in. Not having your dog on a leash, even on a campsite in the middle of nowhere, can get your dog shot.
The following occurred on March 9 when Shannon Liska and her friend Jerald Williams were camping near Apache Lake in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. Jerald had his daughter and son, along with their two pit bulls. All they wanted was to enjoy some back to nature quality time. Things were about to get very ugly, and one dog would be shot.
At around 6:30p.m., two Forest Service officers were out checking camping permits and walked onto their campsite. One of the pit bulls was asleep in the tent. The other, a 2-year old named Trax, was outside the tent. Trax is described by the family as a gentle giant, who is good around kids. He’d barked at, then played with children who were camping with their family near the campsite Shannon and Jerald had set up.
Trax did the same when the two U.S. Forest Service officers showed up. When they came walking out of the woods, Trax sat down and barked until he was told to be quiet. In an interview with Phoenix NewTimes, Shannon told “I heard [the officer] say, ‘Call your dog back. But before anyone could do anything he’d pulled his gun.”
Trax is now toothless on one side of his mouth, and he doesn’t have enough jaw bone to fasten any replacement teeth to. He’s also left with a bullet fragment in his snout. Trax was taken to a vet in Payson, where he underwent surgery. The Forestry Service is now looking over his vet bills, which are now over $7,000.
There are several extenuating circumstances to this dog being shot by an officer. One is that the entire state of Arizona has a leash law. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in your own back yard, or in the wilderness with no one around for miles. Your dog is required to be on a leash in Arizona.
Another issue that has come up is whether shock collars are humane to use on a dog, and whether they can be used in place of a leash. Trax was wearing one at the time he was shot. Shannon says it had been over a year since any kind of shock had to be used to discipline the dog. She argues the shock is very mild and doesn’t harm the dog wearing the collar.
Of course, in the dark the officers may not have recognized Trax as wearing such a collar. And it may not have mattered anyway, because a leash needs to actually be a leash.
Shannon is more upset in how the situation was handled. For one thing, almost any dog is going to sit and bark when a stranger enters into it’s perceived territory. Barking isn’t attacking. She believes Trax would have been shot, even if he had been on a traditional leash. Her issue is the U.S. Forest Service officers had a Tazer, as well as pepper spray. The officer used his gun as the first and only line of defense against her dog.
The family is also in disagreement with the incident report turned in by the U.S. Forest Service officers, who say Trax lunged at them. Even if the dog did lunge, was it really necessary to shoot the dog?
Regardless of how this situation ends, it’s a good reminder to be very cautious when camping with your dog. Know the leash laws. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. And most important, don’t ever think your dog is safe in the presence of any type of law enforcement who may enter your campsite. They don’t know your dog, and your dog doesn’t know them. It’s best to have a plan of action in place just in case anyone unexpected does show up.
Readers, do any of you who love camping with your dogs follow leash laws when camping in uncrowded areas? Ever encountered any unfriendly law enforcement? Do you think the U.S. Forest Service should cover Trax’s vet expenses? How do you feel about shock collars being used in place of an actual leash?
Your comments on any of these topics are welcome.
For more of Elisa’s articles on dogs shot by police, click here.