Yes, like most municipalities, Milwaukee and surrounding communities require dogs to be on leashes when they are out in public. Now, every dog owner who has their dog off leash tends to say, “Well, you know, my dog would never hurt someone.”
Just because they feel that their dog is safe, doesn’t mean their dog’s safe.
If the dog isn’t on a leash, does that make my case stronger?
I think it certainly can because the dog is supposed to be controlled by its owner. The reason we put leashes on our dogs is first, to prevent them from running away, and second, to prevent them from engaging in behavior that could interfere or harm other people. So rather than chasing after the dog, yelling, “Don’t do that!”, a leash allows the owner to maintain control.
If a dog is not on a leash and attacked someone, how do you determine who owns it?
The law allows for claims to be made against the owner, the harborer, or the keeper. For example, let’s say the dog is owned by a college student, but the dog lives at home with the student’s parents. In that case, the parents are the keepers of the dog, even if the college student is the owner.
We have to investigate ownership and control closely. It is a part of the work we do and sometimes simply consists of sending a letter saying, “we think you’re the owner of the dog, please call us to discuss.” Sometimes they will respond, “I’m not the owner of the dog but I know who is” or “I’m not the owner of the dog. It was just staying here for a while.”
With this additional information, we get into some of those legal aspects of who’s considered an owner, harborer or keeper.