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Off-leash dogs in city parks: Barking mad or harmless fun?

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You're out for your morning run, hitting your stride through the local park, feeling the bliss as Jay-Z serenades through your earbuds, when you turn the corner and – a yappy puggle scratches at your knees. Bark! Scratch! Bark! Chase!

"She's totally friendly!" the owner hollers with a giggle.

How would you react?

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If you're anything like Carrie Wakeford, it wouldn't be pretty. The Peterborough woman made headlines after she reached for her pepper spray to greet an approaching dog on Sunday. She missed the pooch, but isn't happy with how often these situations occur.

"It was terrifying. It was just completely terrifying," she told the Examiner.

Ms. Wakeford complains about her frequent encounters with loose dogs on her blog, leashplease. ("I must confess, I lost my temper with the owner of an unleashed dog," one entry begins.)

The recent run-in has dog owners and city-park frequenters alike getting their hackles up.

Some online commenters noted that there aren't enough off-leash parks in the city - so what's an owner to do? "They were there first," is LocalDogOwner's stance.

"If you don't feel comfortable about entering a park, that's your problem."

But the majority of readers disagree. "Public parks are a privilege, not a right," writes LiveLoveandLearn. "Your dog is an animal, and thus can react unpredictably in any given situation."

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Now, confession time: I take my dog to what I like to call an unofficial off-leash dog park, a big stretch of green nestled in the centre of dozens of dog-filled high-rise condos. Toronto's by-law officers issue tickets very rarely, despite our mayor's recent declaration of war on off-leash dogs.

There are no fences, and many 'please leash your dog' signs. Sure, technically we're breaking the (by-)law – but at any time of day, there are actually dozens and dozens of pups wrestling, running, having a dog party. I'd dare you to come and not smile at the scene.

Owners are overwhelmingly responsible – rarely is there an incident between dogs, and yes, everyone scoops the poop.

So - what do you think? Is there any wiggle room for well-mannered dogs in city parks, or should we all leash the pooches and share the space?

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