When we watch the news, it is easy to Monday Morning Quarterback and assume something should have been done differently. However, having been in various situations with loose dogs causing major problems in my neighborhood and a canine professional, I want to comment the assumption that things should have been done differently.
At the time I wrote a shorter version for the local paper, there was a situation regarding a man being harassed for killing his neighbor’s dog. The dog was on his property, so he shot the dog. Does this sound extreme to you? Killing a dog simply for being on your property? When I read comments about the article, the consensus was “The dog was only on his property, he should have done something else.” Well, as the late Paul Harvey would say: “And now, the rest of the story.” There is almost always more to the story that may or may not be released to the public. I have seen it many times. For example, it has to be a decade ago now, a “horrendous” video of an officer throwing a woman to his vehicle hood and cuffing her was on the news. People were outraged! Well, I did some checking… Some person who wrote for an now defunct police blog managed to post the whole video. There were several minutes of the officer trying to talk to two young women about jay-walking. One got up in his face (well down, she was taller than him) and she started harassing him. He told her numerous times to back off or she would be arrested. She refused to, her friend got into the mix. He called for backup (which takes time to arrive). They began to get physical and guess what? Guess what the media only showed? The officer tossing her to the hood of his car. Now, back to the dog…
I read a few articles about the situation and took a different approach. The neighbor had to protect his family. I have seen in person and in pictures the damage loose dogs, especially those with behavioral concerns, can cause. Even a loving family pet can become a problem when loose (as an old animal control officer friend of mine had to deal with on too many occasions when the fun pet was let run free to frolic in the country and killed someone’s chickens or bit a human.) I pitied the dog owner, but I put the blame not on the neighbor and this is why – read on…
The dog’s owner used an electric fence to confine the dog. Those of us seriously into dog training and behavior recognize that these fences often lead to undesired behaviors. (Please read this regarding the risks with shock/electric fencing as well as this.) We also know it is not uncommon for dogs to escape electric fences, even when the shock is set at the highest level and training done. Here are a few reasons dogs may escape:
- The dog forgot about the shock (some dogs require frequent “retraining” of the boundaries).
- There was something of much higher value on the other side and the dog learned to ignore the shock.
- The dog momentarily forgot the shock in the desire to get to something.
- The fence or collar failed.
Here we have a dog being managed in a way we know is not behaviorally or physically safe. This sets the stage for future trouble.
Next is the dog’s history in the neighborhood. This dog had a history…
The dog was off the property on a fairly regular basis from what I read. The owner was alerted frequently to her dog being at large. At one point the dog entered the garage of the man who would eventually shoot him. The dog went after his child – no damage thankfully but the child was in danger. So, stop and think: you have chronic issues with a loose dog who is menacing your child on YOUR property – not just on but IN a building on your property! What would you do? Well, this time the dog was spared.
Along with all this, the owner was cited twice by law enforcement. I am not sure about how many runs ins there were before the two citations were made – but in many places citations often follow at least a couple verbal requests by law enforcement to control the dog. The owner was warned the dog could be shot – it was unclear who warned the owner but the owner knew dead dog was a possibility. The owner did nothing to rectify the situation.
In many areas if your dog is running at large, especially in rural areas, your dog is at risk. For example, your dog decides to head down the lane and chase goats can be shot by the owner of the goats. Your dog is loose and menacing neighbors, depending on local laws, your dog can be shot. Each state and each community within a state may have different laws. I have had the “pleasure” (not) of trying to explain to people who wanted to move to the country so Rover could run free all he wanted about the many dangers – including ticked off farmers who finally catch the dogs running livestock or raiding a hen house.
Fast forward several months.
Still no addressing of the situation. The dog was still a nuisance. Once again he came on the neighbor’s property. The neighbor attempted nonlethal means to get the dog to leave. The gun was NOT his first move. The dog stood his ground and growled. This time there would be no chance for the dog to be a menace again: the dog was shot. “Oh how horrid!” were the comments, “This man killed an innocent dog!”
Did the neighbor really cause the dog’s death or was he just ending a persistent, dangerous situation? Remember the other human involved: the dog owner.
To refresh your memory: For many months, the dog’s owner knew the problems her dog was creating. This woman had two against her for her dog being off the property and causing trouble. How many times did law enforcement speak with her? Could the shock fence have played into the behaviors the neighborhood residents saw? Absolutely! Behaviorists and serious trainers know aggression and fear issues go shock in paw with electric fences. Obviously it was failing as a containment device as well!
Had the owner gone to a local home improvement store, the materials to build a dog run or even a tethering system could have been purchased. But these can be several hundred dollars or more (still cheaper than paying thousands of dollars for damage a dog can cause). For $20 – $25 the owner could have purchased a dog tethering system. Put this in perspective: less than the cost of a mani-pedi. Less than the cost of a few specialty coffees and a pastry at Starbucks. Less than the cost of a pair of jeans. This dog could have been better confined to the property.
So, I ask again…
Who really killed the dog?
Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, a published author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.