Lawbreaking dog owners give good ones a bad name

A German Shepherd like this one attacked two Bucks County runners on Sunday in Tyler State Park. Both men required medical attention (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Perhaps the most memorable quote from Cesar Millan, host of the former “The Dog Whisperer’’ show, went something like this:

“There are no neurotic dogs.

“Just neurotic dog owners.’’

That’s not to say the overwhelming majority of dog owners aren’t responsible citizens who do the right thing by their pets and their fellow man when they’re out and about.

It’s just that when certain types don’t take responsibility while interacting with the public, things tend to get out of hand.

We’re talking about letting dogs run free in parks where leash laws are posted, or even walking along a trail in a state, county or city sanctum with their animal on a leash but not having full control.

That’s where trouble starts and many runners are all too familiar with the threat.

An incident which took place last Sunday in Tyler State Park/Newtown typifies what we’re pointing out.

Two of Bucks County’s most accomplished adult runners – Pete Lederer and Bill Schaffling – were warming up for the Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s Winter Series Jingle Bell 5.3-Mile event when misfortune struck.

Both Lederer and Schaffling were (separately) crossing the causeway over Neshaminy Creek when they were attacked by a German Shepherd which was ON a leash.

Lederer suffered severe bite marks to his arm as he attempted to protect his face from the jumping canine. The Langhorne resident had to go to the emergency room at St. Mary Hospital where he was given shots for rabies.

Schaffling also sustained wounds when the dog leaped on his chest and chomped through several layers of clothing. The runner went to Urgent Care to receive shots for tetanus, etc.

Both of these confrontations could have been avoided if the dog owner had a tighter grip on the leash.

“Just before I passed I remember the dog turning his head to look at me,’’ Lederer recalled. “As I was passing he jumped. I pulled my arm up near my face and he bit my right forearm and held on for a second or two.

“I let out a yell and ran into the grass when he let go. I pulled up my sleeve and could see the one puncture on my arm. The owners stopped and apologized. They also told me that the dog is a puppy and has his shots. Unfortunately, at that moment, I didn’t think to get their contact information.’’

When Lederer returned to the park pavilion, he realized his arm was in worse shape than originally thought. There was a second, more severe wound.

“I went to the St. Mary Hospital ER and since I didn’t have proof  the dog had its rabies shots, they convinced me the safe decision was to get rabies shots. I had three shots directly into the wounds, another three in various other places and a tetanus shot. I have to go back three more times for more.’’

The 17-time Boston Marathon veteran says a leash is not enough if the dog is not held tightly in check.

“This dog was on a leash but was not held tightly,’’ Lederer said. “Considering it was untrained the owner needed to keep him tight or find a place that was not going to put others in jeopardy. Even if someone owns the calmest and friendliest dog in the world, the rest of the world doesn’t know that. I try to be very careful with my own dogs to make others feel safe.’’

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website: “Because uncontrolled pets may chase wildlife or frighten visitors, pets must be physically controlled and attended at all times and on a leash, caged, or crated.’’

Lawbreakers are subject to fines up to $300 in state parks.

Schaffling underwent a similar experience to Lederer’s.

“For everyone out there they need to be careful of every dog and also if this happens to them to get all the owner’s information,’’ Schaffling said. “I went directly to Urgent Care where they said I was required to fill out a report to the county but I’m not sure what they can do without a name.’’

The split-second attack left Schaffling a bit shaken.

“I was looking away and as I passed them the dog leaped and bit me on my chest,’’ Schaffling recalled. “I never saw it but felt the bite and force of the dog. I stopped and looked back and the owner had the dog on a leash but obviously didn’t or couldn’t hold him.

“I thought initially I was fine. I also had several layers of clothing on and initially didn’t see anything. When I went to change I saw the red marks and realized it had still put a bite mark and puncture in my chest.’’

Schaffling received a tetanus shot and antibiotics for precautionary reasons.

Doylestown Township retired police chief Stephen White, an avid runner who was in Tyler that day but did not witness the incident, says having a dog just on a leash is not enough. It must be under reasonably tight control.

“The Pennsylvania Dog Law states the owners are responsible to control their dog at all times,’’ White said. “This not only means that any dog in Tyler State Park must be on a leash, but the dog must be in control by the owner at all times.

“If the dog happened to be off a leash and bit the runners that would be a clear violation, but even if the dog was on a leash and bit the runners then the owner failed to control their dog and that would be a violation, too.

“In my opinion, if the dog was on a leash, but was too close as the runners ran past and bit the runners, it still would definitely be the owner’s fault and responsibility.’’

Let’s keep our parks safe so incidents like this don’t happen again.


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BCRR Winter Series Tyler Challenge 10K, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact






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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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