Bad Dog? No, Bad Dog Owner …

An incident in my Florida neighborhood this past week caused quite a ruckus. An elderly woman had been walking her dachshund when two very large, 100-pound Alaskan huskies attacked her pet. She had a walking stick with her and tried to fend off the bigger dogs until a neighbor, a big guy with a Trace Atkins voice, intervened and got the big dogs to back off — but not before her dog was seriously bitten.

The huskies were running loose. The woman knew who their owner was, so she immediately called 911 and then took her wounded pet to the nearby veterinarian. The good Samaritan neighbor stuck around to wait for the police. After the officers arrived and got the story from him, they walked up to the offending dog owner’s house and questioned him for about an hour. Shortly thereafter, an Animal Control van showed up and took his dogs into quarantine as is standard procedure for animal attacks.

I happen to know the good Samaritan neighbor. He is a gun owner and avid hunter. Like me, he is pretty much always legally armed, and he was that day. Since he and I are also dog owners, when I came home about an hour after the incident, he walked down to my house to talk about what happened. During our conversation, he asked me what I thought would have happened if he had shot one or both of the dogs if he had been unable to get them to cease their attack. As with virtually every “what if?” question about using deadly force, my answer was, “It depends.” On the plus side, no humans would have been hurt, only animals. Thus, the only charges available to a prosecutor would be related to animal cruelty or reckless discharge of a firearm — things along those lines. It is hard to predict.

But the plot thickened when the neighbor told me something disturbing that he said he had witnessed the owner of the two huskies doing about a month earlier. My neighbor is often up late, and one night, he was sitting down having a cigar in his darkened garage with the door up. He saw a cat sitting quietly on the homeowner’s front porch across the street. Eventually, the husky owner and his two dogs came down the street, and as they passed the house with the cat, he saw the huskies’ owner let out their retractable leashes and heard him say, “Get ’im! Get ’im!” At that point, my neighbor stood up and coughed loudly on purpose. Immediately, the huskies’ owner reeled in his dogs and went off down the street.

What is even more interesting is that over the next week, several other neighbors mentioned that they had also experienced minor run-ins with the huskies’ owner, who was, in their words, belligerent and nasty when they asked him to please control his dogs. I urged all of them to report their experiences to the police, and they did.

These incidents are important because this guy is clearly trouble waiting to happen, and if I, my neighbor or anyone else ends up having a run-in with him, it can help to have a paper trail. Bottom line: Always be a good neighbor, but also be prepared to deal with those who are not.

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