Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leash rule and Michigan leash law

I just walked outside and up came a dog, racing down the road, with a lycra-clad woman jogging up behind it.

"Why is your dog off its leash? Do you know that it's against the rules?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'll put it on a leash," was the response as she ran after her dog. It was almost closing time, so I decided to leave it at that.

But... that didn't actually answer either question, even though I did see her put her dog on a leash and continue her jog out the forest (I didn't encounter her again on my rounds). Sometimes, I wonder why certain dog owners don't feel that the leash rule of the forest, or the state of Michigan's leash law, applies to them.

Just as a refresher:

The leash rule in Saginaw Forest is simple: "All dogs must be on leashes."

This means that if you have a dog, and you want to bring that dog into Saginaw Forest, you must keep it on a leash.

The state of Michigan's leash law is less simple, but basically boils down to this: "It shall be unlawful ... for any owner to allow any dog, except working dogs such as leader dogs, guard dogs, farm dogs, hunting dogs, and other such dogs, ... while actively engaged in activities for which such dogs are trained, to stray unless held properly in leash." (Full text at link.)

Since a dog is considered a working dog only (as per the wording of the law) "while actively engaged in activities for which such dogs are trained", guard dogs and farm dogs cannot be working within Saginaw Forest. The former cannot be guarding the property, since no visitor is the owner of the property, and similarly, no dog can be working as a farm dog, since no one is the operator of the Saginaw Forest Forestry Farm, save (possibly) for the caretaker. Similarly, since there is no hunting allowed in Saginaw Forest, dogs trained for hunting cannot work in the forest. The "other such dogs" that might be allowed off-leash would be police dogs performing their duty. The only type of visitor's dog allowed to be working in the forest is a leader dog, otherwise known as a "seeing eye dog", which, due to its job requirements, needs to be in-hand in order to be working.

Therefore, the only dogs that are allowed by Michigan state law to be off leash in Saginaw Forest are guard dogs or farm dogs owned by the caretaker, or K9 Unit police dogs that are called to the forest.

Of course, the forest is a piece of private property of the University of Michigan (much like any research facility is a piece of private property; the public cannot just walk into one of the nuclear research lab on North Campus, for example), so the Michigan law is superseded by the property rules.

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