“Beware of Dog” or Yellow Ribbon. A good idea – or is it asking for a lawsuit?

by Susi on August 30, 2012

in Cane Corso, Dog Bite, Facebook, Susan Clothier, Yellow Ribbon

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Several days ago, I drove into the parking lot of a strip mall and saw two women waiting for my car to pass before crossing the street.  Each was holding the leash of a dog, and it was actually these dogs I spotted first because as a dog person, I always notice dogs. I might forget a face, and I can be relied upon to forget a name, but I always remember the dog.  

I noticed the dogs, too, because they were Cane Corsos, a breed you don’t see much outside of a dog show. They were robust, healthy examples of their breed and commanded attention, but ultimately, it would have been hard for anyone to miss these dogs: Each was wearing a thick (read: industrial strength) leather harness to which had been applied several neon-colored signs reading, “Do Not Touch Dog.”  I thought to myself that the only things missing from this picture were cage muzzles and spiked collars. 

I was really sorry to see this, and even sorrier that I didn’t stop to talk with the women and learn why they’d done this.  What was the average person to make of such signage? Were the dogs too dangerous to pet? Were the owners discouraging contact with strangers? And if either was true, what were these dogs doing out in public, let alone entering a fabric store? 

I was left to assume the worst and shook my head at the bad light this shone not only on Cane Corsos, a breed I like, but all dogs sharing a certain”look.”

There’s been a poster making the rounds on Facebook today, and although the messaging is more “warm and fuzzy” than the terse warnings attached to those Cane Corsos, I think it smacks of the same thing.

What do you think?

My jumble of thoughts regarding the notion of tying a yellow ribbon to a dog’s leash to suggest giving the dog “space” run the gamut.  On one hand, I think we presume too much “dog savviness” on the part of the general public. I’ve been a dog fancier for thirty years, but if I’d never seen this poster on Facebook today, I wouldn’t have known the significance of a yellow ribbon on a dog leash. Because I am a dog fancier, however, I also know there are better ways to deal with the situations listed on this poster than using a ribbon to ask for “space.” Responsible dog owners have control over the environment  to which their dogs are exposed, as well as the degree of “saturation” in that setting. If a dog has health issues that require minimal contact with other dogs,  should the dog even be in such an environment?  And is it me, but if a dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, should he even be around them until he’s become trustworthy in a controlled setting? And finally, isn’t it just plain common sense and courtesy to keep one’s dog from getting in another dog’s face?  Rather than rely on a yellow ribbon to signal any number of issues a dog has, I’d rather see this fabulous article by Susan Clothier make the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and be included in material handed out to new dog owners. 

My final thought on using a yellow ribbon to indicate a dog’s need for space goes back to the Cane Corso story at the beginning of my blog. We live not only in a litigious society, but at a time when animal rights zealots are gunning for us. Is it really smart to telegraph with a yellow ribbon (or “do not touch” signs) that our dog may have “issues?” 

I’m reminded of a case that made the news some years ago. Two children, next door neighbors, were playing at the home of one of them. The family dog, normally known to be a friendly and gentle dog, nipped the neighbor child – thankfully not seriously – but enough to require medical attention. The bitten child’s family sued their neighbors, owners of the dog, and the case went to trial. The jury found for the plaintiffs on the strength of the fact that the dog owners had a “Beware of Dog” sign posted on their fence. Though the dog owners had posted the sign to protect their dog, the jury saw it as an admission that the owners harbored a dangerous dog.  

Everyone I knew who owned a dog promptly took down whatever signage they had on their property indicating a dog on the premises. Although it may be a stretch, and while it’s certainly not as blatant as the signs on the Cane Corsos, I can’t help but wonder if a yellow ribbon on a dog’s leash isn’t tantamount to a “Beware of Dog” sign. 

What do you think? 


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