I tend to talk about New Orleans dog stuff on this blog a lot, mainly because New Orleans is a dog-friendly city. Take dogs in bars: I didn't know that was a thing until I moved here. My fiancé, Chris, and I have taken our dog, Leila, to Mick's in Mid-City a couple of times and people don't seem to care. The dogs wander around like they're fellow bar patrons. One time, at the Crown and Anchor English Pub in Algiers, I saw a dog sitting on a bar stool.
However, I sometimes wonder if New Orleans' love for dogs has made dog owners here too lax about one rule in particular: keeping dogs on a leash. Over the last year and a half, I've seen lots and lots of dogs wandering with their owners throughout neighborhoods without leashes. This is something about New Orleans that I do not understand.
I encountered a leash-free dog this past Friday when I was on my way home from work. It was about 5:40 p.m., and I was in the process of turning on to my street when a little Boston Terrier darted out into the middle of the road. I wasn't going fast, so I had plenty of time to slow down, but it made me so frazzled and I kept thinking, “What if I had been going a little bit faster? I could have hit that little guy.” I felt bad for the dog because I assumed he was lost, but then about two seconds later, I noticed a man on the sidewalk who appeared to be the dog's owner. The owner didn't seem very concerned that his dog was strolling into traffic during rush hour. "Why is the man not more concerned about his dog?" I thought. "Why is he letting his dog wander near a busy street? Why is the dog not on a leash?"
This was not the first time in New Orleans that I've had to deal with dogs off the leash. About a year ago, Chris was walking Leila in our neighborhood. Our upstairs neighbor was also out for a walk with her dog – let's call him Cujo. On this particular night, Leila and Chris were on one side of the street, and the neighbor and Cujo were on the other side. When Cujo saw Leila, he sprinted across the street toward her. Cujo wasn't on a leash, so his owner couldn't catch him. He attacked Leila, leaving small but bloody abrasions on her head.
After that incident, Chris and I started noticing more unleashed dogs around town. I had never seen so many dogs off the leash in a busy city like New Orleans, so I asked a friend about it. He told me, “Well, since we have festivals here, and dogs are allowed in bars here, I think dogs in New Orleans are used to being outside and used to being around people.” While this might be true, it still makes me nervous that some dog owners in New Orleans don't see a leash as a priority. Letting a dog off a leash at a fenced-in area or a bar is a lot different than letting a dog walk along a car-filled street.
I'm particularly sensitive about this topic because when I was in high school, our family dog got hit by a car. My family and I had just gotten home from a football game, and our dog, who was named Layla (yes, the same name as my fiancé's dog now), was in the garage with us while we were taking tailgating supplies out of the car. All of a sudden, something in the street caught Layla's eye. Before anyone could grab her, Layla bolted into the street and then – BAM. Layla was hit by a car. I didn't see it happen, but I knew she had been hit because she let out the worst cry I have ever heard. We had to put Layla to sleep that night and the whole experience was awful.
I'm not sharing this story to be a downer, but merely to give you a cautionary tale. I know New Orleanians don't love rules, and the leash law is obviously one some people don't care about. While most New Orleans dog owners I've seen do use a leash, I've seen plenty who don't. I hope New Orleans' carefree dog owners change their thinking soon because I would hate for someone else to go through what my family went through when our dog got hit by a car.