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Sausage is power

In recent days, dog owners have fallen victim to a rumor which suggested an alleged revolution in dog-walking regulations. Being the owner of a particularly feisty pooch myself, I decided to dig deeper into the case and share what I’ve sniffed out.. [1]

What needs to be emphasized is that nothing has changed within the fundamental provisions. The regulations concerning the definition of an offense, which is the so-called “failure to exercise caution when in charge of an animal” (Article 77 of the Misdemeanors Code), have not changed. Therefore, an offense is committed by anyone who does not observe the usual or prescribed precautions when in charge of the animal.

The provisions which constitute the above-mentioned “prescribed precautions” have not changed either. The ban on unleashing dogs out of control without a dog tag enabling the identification of the owner or guardian has not been amended either (Animal Protection Act (Article 10a, section 3)). Nor have the regulations for maintaining order and cleanliness in the Capital City of Warsaw, according to which dogs need to be kept on a leash (adopted by the Council of the Capital City of Warsaw on 8th February 2018, section 26 of the Regulations). Checking the local regulations in one’s municipality may come in handy.

Only the regulation on the amount of fines has changed. At the moment, the offense of “failing to exercise caution when in charge of a dog” is punishable with a higher fine (previously it was a maximum of PLN 250, and now it is PLN 500)..

I suppose many dog owners were dismayed after reading above that the dog should always be walked on a leash. How can any dog receive enough exercise around the city if its freedom is always limited by the length of the leash? Besides, since the regulation has not changed, how could it be possible that so far dogs could run unleashed and owners weren’t getting fined?

It is possible due to the regulations easing the above-mentioned bans and orders. In Warsaw, section 26 (4) of the above-mentioned Regulations allows for the dog to be unleashed, provided that the dog is marked in a way that allows to identify the owner or guardian and that said guardian is in control of the dog. Now the question arises, when does one have control over a dog? As long as I have treats in my pocket, I know that I do have control over my dog. Even the fastest-running dog will stop at a command, if it knows that it will be rewarded with some sausage.

In my opinion, it is appropriate that the above-mentioned provisions are somewhat imprecise and leave room for interpretation. A great deal can depend on a situation in which the dog and its guardian are, their mutual relationship, knowledge of the dog's psyche and the degree of obedience developed by the dog. It may happen that it will be necessary to keep a Maltese on a short leash and in a muzzle. On the other hand, it might be perfectly acceptable for a mastiff to be walked without a leash.

Kotowski spoke very wisely in this respect in his Commentary to the Misdemeanors Code (Oficyna 2009). He pointed out that “the assessment of precautionary measures rests with the owner of the animal (...) as it all comes down to controlling the animal to a degree that guarantees safety in a public place. In order to fulfil this condition, regular precautionary measures do not require, for example, walking a dog on a leash or in a muzzle. (...) One cannot possibly imagine that keeping an Irish wolfhound (weighing at 85 kilograms, 110 centimeters at the withers) on a leash and in a muzzle will ensure safety. For if such a dog were prone to aggressive behavior, there would be no human strong enough to stop it. (...) Therefore, if one, who is aware of their dog’s behavior, decides to walk the dog without a leash or muzzle in a public place, they do not commit an offense ”.

So let's keep a cool head and behave responsibly and sensibly, adequately to the situation and our dog's habits. And always have a piece of sausage in your pocket − for safety reasons.

[1] For Jaromir.

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