Monday, June 09, 2008

A Cautionary Lesson In Territoriality

A 33-year-old man was mauled by three dogs at a neighbor's house. Cummings went to the house, where he regularly mows the lawn, and entered a gated area of the yard. He knocked on the door to schedule a time to do yardwork, but the residents weren't home. A German shepherd mix, a pit-bull mix and a terrier mix at the house then attacked Cummings after he tried to leave the yard. Cummings managed to escape the yard and shut the gate behind him before running home, where his mother drove him to Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen for severe injuries to his face, arms and torso.

Dogs are territorial. If you are perceived to be an UNINVITED intruder, they can attack. If the facts are as they are stated in the article, I don't blame the dogs in this case. Territoriality is a natural instinct. This guy shouldn't have entered the yard without the owners present, even if he knew the dogs.

This is why I recommend the following to all dog owners:

a. Don't leave dogs unsupervised in your yard; and if you do, recognize that they will be on patrol;
b. Know the dog bite laws in your community so you know how to defend yourself legally should an intruder enter your property;
c. Post a No Trespassing sign on your gates. Make it illegal for a non-resident to enter your property without your express permission. This might make the difference between whether you are liable or not.
d. Put a child proof lock on the gates so someone would be forced to climb into your yard to get into where the dogs are. Make it difficult to enter. Make it clear that you took steps to keep intruders out.
e. Put barriers around any "attractive nuisances" in your yard to discourage kids from climbing into your property. That means put fences around pools and trampolines. Kids are given a free legal pass to climb into your property if you have a pool that will override your "No Trespassing" sign. Make it difficult for them to do so.
f. Have a good fence around your property that is difficult to climb.
g. Have your gates spring loaded to close and lock automatically in case the gates are left open.
h. Place "Dog on Premises" signs on your gates and fences. In some cases, if you put "beware of dog" signs, then you are almost admitting you have dogs that will attack, and that might be used against you in court. So, use a more benign type of sign.
i. Use other intruder deterrent devices if you can afford them: automatic motion detector lights around the perimeter, burglar alarms, security cameras.
j. Don't get in the habit of letting workers enter your property without your express permission, and without you being present with the dogs around. I have known of workers who will act threatening to get the dogs out of their way as they enter the gates, swinging equipment on purpose, thinking they are getting the dogs to leave them alone. Many dogs will see the intruders taking a swing at them as a threat and then bite.
k. Make sure your homeowner's insurance covers dog bites so that they can defend you in case the dogs bite legally.

Not all dog bites are unjustified.

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