Here’s a story that happens more often than you probably realize:
“I got home yesterday and realized my dogs were out. No sooner had I put my purse down when I heard screaming. I ran outside to see my dogs running away from the neighbor’s house. Khloe, my pit bull, got a hold of the neighbor’s puppy and I just found out they had to put the puppy down because of internal bleeding.
The animal control officer wrote me 4 citations and gave me a court date. The neighbor told me she was suing me, and her husband came to my house and demanded my dog be destroyed…. I don’t know what to do. I am so scared.”
This tragic scenario is unfortunate for everyone involved.
Kathy Diamond Davis, trainer and author of several books on canine behaviors, points out, “After a dog has killed another animal, people often find out things about the law, about human emotion and about dog instincts that they wish they had known before. You’ll likely be consulting with other people to settle the matter; those people may include veterinarians, lawyers, animal control authorities, insurance claim adjusters and other animal owners.”
Educating yourself now can help you if you find yourself facing a situation like this.
Consider your homeowner’s insurance first. Many insurance companies refuse to insure homes that have a dog labeled as “dangerous.” This leaves you responsible when it comes to lawsuits and damages if your dog kills another pet.
- Notify your insurance carrier that you have a dog of any kind.
- If there is an incident with your dog, notify your insurance carrier immediately.
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States vary widely in their requirements, so know the laws that pertain to dogs in your area.
States have statutes stating that they will euthanize dogs who are found to be dangerous, and some allow only a small window of time for you to defend your dog before he is euthanized — which makes it important that you act quickly to justify your dog’s actions.
- Look up your state laws and local regulations regarding dogs online. Contact your local animal control officer or police department for more information.
- Consider contacting a lawyer about possible legal defenses.
Dogs were originally pack animals and killers. Domestication and human management have suppressed that instinct, but dogs will always be dogs and they don’t understand that killing is wrong. They kill to protect themselves and their territory, whether it is from instinct or for food — not for joy.
“When you realize that it is normal dog behavior to kill, you can also see that it’s a dog owner’s responsibility to govern that behavior,” says Davis. “It’s not the dog’s fault when such a thing happens. How could it be? The dog is just being a dog and does not understand that killing is ‘wrong’ in a human perspective.”
Let’s repeat that: It’s your responsibility to govern your dog’s behavior.
What Would You Do?
Insurance and the law are important, but the other side of the coin is the heartbreak. Here’s some feedback from people in my area:
- Skylar, mom to Penny (Yorkie mix): “If my dog randomly attacked and killed another dog, I would probably try not to put her down. It would depend on the circumstances. If I had to, I would put her down.”
- Jenn, mom to Tinsel (pit bull): “If Tinsel killed another pet, I would, as much as it would pain us to make this decision, have to get rid of her. If she did it with no provocation, I would be concerned that she could do it again and next time it could be myself, my husband — or worse — our children.”
- Jim, dad to Buddy (Lab): “I’d hate to think about Buddy doing something like that. I think I would try to defend him as much as I could. I don’t think he’d attack another dog without a reason…but I guess if he did, I would put him to sleep if the law says I do.”
All things considered, according to Davis, euthanasia should not be the solution you reach for first. “Some dogs can be placed in another home away from other animals, where the chances of a recurrence are slim,” she says.
So ask yourself — what would you do?