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Barking over a bite: Lack of leash law vexes lake resident

Staff writer

Sarah Rathgeber was walking her dog, Tater, Sunday morning at Marion County Park and Lake when a larger dog that was not on a leash “came out of nowhere” at them.

“He saw my little dog, and he came flying,” Rathgeber said. “When he got up in Tater’s face, Tater barked, and when he barked, that was it. He got Tater. At this point, I’m yelling, including words my momma told me not to say.”

Tater appears to be OK, but Rathgeber’s wits have had serious damage.

Later that day, Rathgeber learned that there are no leash laws in the county. Dogs must be leashed on county property inside Lakeshore Dr., but on the other side of Lakeshore Dr., the county doesn’t require dogs to be leashed — at least not now.

Rathgeber initially thought the dog that attacked her Chihuahua was a cattle dog, but when its owner came by later to apologize, he said it was a border collie.

After nipping Tater, the dog went after a miniature donkey and horse, Rathgeber said.

“He was in their pen,” she said. “Then the dog came back at us. I love dogs. But at that point, I was ready to start kicking. I told the owner in a not-so-ladylike way to put his dog on a leash.”

The dog did stand down when its owner told it to, she said.

Rathgeber’s husband, John, called the sheriff’s office. A dispatcher said a deputy was on a call.

When the deputy called the Rathgebers, she said he told them, “My hands are tied. There is no leash law. If the dog had bitten your wife, we could do something about it.”

“I was so shocked when I found out there are no leash laws in the county,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

The dog’s owner offered to pay for any care required at a veterinarian, Rathgeber said.

“I would rather he put his dog on a leash,” she said.

She thinks Tater is OK, but she’s keeping an eye on where Tater was nipped.

The Rathgebers live primarily in Bel Aire but spend weekends at their lake house. She understands she’s not a Marion County resident, but “as a Marion County taxpayer, I feel like I do have a right to have a say in some things.”

The sheriff’s office gets calls “from time to time” about loose dogs, undersheriff Larry Starkey said.

“We really don’t have a way to transport a dog or have a place to go with them,” he said.

Conversation about a leash law comes up occasionally, he said.

“Most farms in Marion County will have a dog or two. You couldn’t enforce it,” commissioner Kent Becker said.

One solution, Becker said, would be incorporating the lake area.

“They have no governing body of any kind,” Becker said of property owners at the lake. “My own personal feeling is that maybe they could have some kind of governing body.”

There’s been “small talk” throughout the years of incorporating the lake area or adding it to the city of Marion, “but I’m not sure how much interest there really is,” Becker said.

Commission chairman David Mueller said he was working with the county’s lawyer on regulations that would cover loose cattle, dogs, and other animals.

“There needs to be something in place to address situations like this,” he said.

Lake superintendent Isaac Hett doesn’t oversee what happens on residential property at the lake. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t field phone calls about residential matters.

“I get calls for things that happen at residences,” he said. “Technically, there’s nothing that I can do about it.”

Last modified June 1, 2023

 

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