When I arrived at the Arizona State Senate in January 2011, I committed myself to standing up for the rights of individuals by limiting the burden of government. Too many times legislation is passed that inserts the government in yet another facet of our daily life. I sponsored SB 1065 this session because I believe Arizonans have the ability to know what is best for them and their pets. Our oversized bureaucratic machine has already done enough to intrude into our lives and I wanted to make sure that I made a stand for the rights of individual freedom.
This bill focuses on dog owners who occasionally choose to take the dog off a leash. People want to hike with their dogs in our beautiful desert. They want to be able to throw a tennis ball or Frisbee at the neighborhood park. If they go out to the driveway to pick up the newspaper, can't Fido come along?
Many of my constituents have told me how they have been fined while they were playing with their unleashed dog on their private property. Others have recounted stories of being fined at other public locations because their dog, despite being extremely well-trained, was without a leash. These fines, mainly distributed by the ever-vigilant board members of homeowners associations, are a result of unnecessary nit-picking and a thorough lack of common sense. Do you realize as much as 25 percent of HOA fines are dog-related? Is this really what we want our HOAs to be consumed with? Instead of protecting the public well-being, these associations have become nuisances.
Most people in the state are wholly unaware that under ARS 11-1020 dogs are already permitted to be "at large" in a number of situations. The number of incidents we've seen in the state over whether dogs are initially on or off-leash clearly underscores that current state leash laws do not work as intended. Consequently, as "the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good," naysayers should not be so quick to judge the efficacy of creative legislation designed for everyone's benefit.
And if you are wondering, our cities and towns don't need to be concerned with SB 1065. No existing local leash law will be impacted. If a community wants to enforce a strict leash law, it can.
What this really comes down to is freedom. Dog owners know their dogs best. I respect their individual right to do what is best, and if that means taking a few minutes out of their day to play with their best friend off-leash, I believe they should be able to do just that.
Sen. Lori Klein, R-Anthem, represents District 6 at the Arizona Legislature.