The Legal Particulars of Possessing Your Precious Pooch
Man’s best friend is a big responsibility.
When most people think of owning a dog, they envision all the positives that come from interacting with man’s best friend: limitless companionship, improved psychological/emotional health, cute photographs to post to social media, a shoulder to cry on and a warm ball of fur snuggle up to when it’s cold outside. Of course, these are all true, but with every opportunity for something amazing comes with the realization that this is a living, breathing creature that is wholly dependent on you for survival. With nearly 90 million dogs being owned as pets in the United States and 78 million living directly in households, this is not an outlier scenario limited to a small group of people, but an issue that even friends of pet owners would do well to familiarize themselves with.
Many pet owners fail to think of situations in which they will not be able to bring their dog inside a store, to a recreation area or within the boundaries of an event. In these cases, you may have to opt for putting your dog in a kennel, getting friends/family to babysit your dog or leaving it at home for a predetermined amount of time. Try to remember that the length of time you can leave your dog alone will depend on its age, health condition and familiarity with its environment. It is a completely different situation to leave a new Dachshund puppy alone for two hours than it is a full-grown Doberman with cataracts who has lived in your home for eight years. Most dogs are territorial and will not respond well in unfamiliar surroundings, feeling the need to protect themselves and guard against threats to their temporary owners. Your dog’s psychological health is important to its temperament and overall well being and can determine behaviors (good or bad) that may last for years, if not the entirety of its life.
The Sad Ballad of the Hot Car
One of the most tragic and preventable ways that dogs perish under the care of their owners is usually an unwitting accident: the hot car on a relatively mild day. What seems innocuous is actually deadly serious, and even though we’ve probably all seen dogs that look just fine hanging out in a parked Chevrolet, this is absolutely one of the worst environments for a dog to be in. According to the American Kennel Club, it takes just 20 minutes for the inside of a car to reach 100 degrees on a relatively mild 70-degree day. On very hot days (especially with sun), these temperatures can rise to 140 degrees in less than an hour. Cracking a window does little to alleviate the heat, and without water and adequate air circulation dogs can be extremely susceptible to heatstroke and severe dehydration often resulting in death. In fact, the situation is so dire that 28 states have passed laws prohibiting people from leaving animals unattended in vehicles, even going so far as to provide legal immunity for citizens who break and enter into vehicles to rescue trapped pets for the sake of their health.
If you absolutely must leave your dog in your car, the only proper way to do so is by leaving the car running with the air conditioning system on to an appropriately cool temperature.
It would be worth your time, health, energy, and effort to invest in finding a quality air conditioning service to make sure your car’s internal system is in top form, especially if you live in a warmer climate. While some northern states may think they can get away with no air conditioning, it’s equally as important to ensure your car’s heat is working, as well.
Some pet owners might benefit from seeking out a window glass repair service to install tinting or solar shielding in your front windshield to limit sun exposure. Remember, your dog didn’t choose to be sitting in what is essentially a hot box, you did. Take this responsibility seriously and treat the situation as if you were leaving an infant or elderly relative in the car instead of an animal. Similarly to how someone on the outside may not hear a baby’s cry or your grandparent’s pleas, it may also be impossible to hear a barking dog, especially if your car is parked far away from heavily trafficked areas.
Your Ideology May Not Be for Canines
Our lifestyles, habits, and beliefs all influence how we live our lives. Some people are religious, others aren’t. Many that follow politics like sports are almost equally represented by those with complete apathy toward government. Vegans are the scorn of carnivores and butchers, while others worry about their health incessantly as people next to them chain smoke cigarettes.
As humans, we’re able to pick and choose how we live our lives based on updated information that we get from the media, science, art, friends, family, and any communities that we are involved in. We are complex creatures that are both omnivores in diet as well as belief. But dogs? Not so much.
Take the example of someone who is a vegan and deeply concerned about animal rights and the health benefits of plants, to the point of extending it to their intimate relationships (including their dog). While we may admire their deep commitment to their beliefs, it would be wrong to extend their plant-based lifestyle to a dog, which is a carnivore and has been for thousands of years. The dog would suffer incredible malnutrition, poor teeth/cavities, lack of energy and all sorts of detrimental physical and mental deformities within a short time.
If you’ve ever looked up the rates for an emergency animal hospital or dog orthodontist, they aren’t cheap. Don’t make the mistake of treating your animal as a complete extension of you, they are still their own organism with unique needs and experiences. In the same way that your dog may feel out of place (and do poorly) at a political rally with loud noises and distractions, its health will also respond in tandem with lack of proper diet, exercise and environment.
Not All Dogs Go Together
In a perfect world, every dog would get along with each other, leading to a plethora of wagging tails, slobbery tennis balls, and cheery barks. And while it has been demonstrated that many dogs of differing sizes can get along and be friends, it is worth noting that monitoring your dogs of mixed breeds and sizes is important to their emotional as well as physical health. Be careful not to show favoritism to one animal, or encourage aggressive behaviors such as resource guarding. Make sure each dog has its own space, with its own toys and materials that it can retreat to when it’s done playing with the other. Poodles and Mastiffs can get along if they are allowed to explore each other while the owner encourages positive behavior.
However, some dogs just simply don’t get along. For the sake of your mental (and physical) health, it’s worth knowing when it’s time to throw in the towel and keep certain dogs away from each other. Being in aggressive situations is bad for your dog’s health because it causes immense amounts of stress, and these compounds when there is no real threat to respond to. If you can’t control growling, snarling and attack behaviors when your dog is around other animals, it’s easier to just avoid those animals and separate your dog for the times when it will get along. Believe me when I tell you that your heart, mind, and wallet will thank you later.
Even a Poodle Can Turn Into a Predator
Don’t think a poodle can be a predator? Think again, as there are lots of vulnerable populations that may not have dog experience that can turn into a relative nightmare. Consider a toddler that has never interacted with an animal before and tries to tug on its ears like a toy, warranting a relatively minor (but traumatizing) bite and growl that may quickly spiral into something more serious. Perhaps that warrants a letter from an accident attorney or affects the child’s physical and emotional health. These incidents can be in the thousands of dollars, ruin personal relationships and may even warrant your dog being euthanized, depending on your local laws. Younger people are especially prone to accidents with dogs, and in 2017 nearly 10,600 two years old or younger had to visit the emergency room for dog bites.
An even more tragic story would concern your dog interacting with people it knows well, but who are simply not as able to deal with the animal as they used to be, such as aging parents who are declining into poor health or not as sharp as they used to be.
They may mean well and try to help, but one false step or tumble could have them accidentally sending you dog into attack mode and going for vulnerable parts of the body such as ankles, hands or the face. Do you really want your parents to have to seek out an ankle specialist after dropping by to see your new house and bringing your dog a toy? Always make sure that you have full control of your dog through proper training, boundaries and physical restrictions if necessary.
Do Your Best to Minimize Your Legal Liability
While there is rarely such thing as a truly “bad dog,” you may want to consider checking out whether the dog you are considering adding to your family is one of the breeds that are prohibited in certain areas and housing situations, often forbidding you from getting home insurance or renting a particular property. Since 10% of Americans move each year, this is another relatively common thing that a tenth of the population should know for the safety of everyone.
Some of the most common dog breeds that will raise (or outright prohibit) you from getting an insurance quote are:
- Pit Bull Terriers
- Siberian Huskies
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Alaskan Malamutes
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Presa Canarios
- Cane Corsos
- Chows Chows
- Doberman Pinschers
- And Wolf-hybrids
None of these dogs are bad themselves, and all can be trained to be perfectly wonderful to humans and canines alike, but insurance deals with data and risk analysis for the sake of business. The sad fact is that these dog breeds are the most common ones brought up in lawsuits for dog bites, attacks and other terrible liabilities that cost society and individuals incredible sums of money. In fact, in 2013 dog bite-related claims accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims. The amount for the year was $490 million, averaging approximately $300,000 per claim. By 2018, this number had jumped to $675 million and insurers became extremely diligent about not covering certain dog breeds associated with payouts. It only makes sense that insurance companies, which need to turn a profit in order to stay in business, would not want these certain dog breeds to pose unnecessary risk.
Another reason to be wary of certain breeds and how you control your dog is that you are almost always personally responsible for the actions of your animal, whether it’s warranted or not. In certain jurisdictions, this can not only mean a hefty fine like those mentioned above, but actual prison time as if you had committed assault or battery yourself. Some dog bite accidents could even result in hospitalization. In this case, you would be in charge of paying the person’s medical bills or orthodontist bills depending on the extent of the injury. One only needs to look at a few cases, such as a 2001 mauling incident in San Francisco involving two Presa Canarios, to realize that the owner would probably prefer to have learned more about dog safety and training than spend 15 years in prison.
Be Vigilant, But Don’t Worry Yourself Sick
If you’re looking to find some educational resources on how to best get along with your furry friend and prevent unnecessary heartache (or an outrageous insurance quote), consider brushing up on all the numerous resources available online and through your local animal shelter or community group. National Dog Bite Prevention Week, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, occurs every year during the second week of April and attempts to minimize dog bites by educating the public about how to properly interact with dogs through videos, social media posts, the hashtag #PreventDogBites, articles, and informational charts. Additionally, they partner with local veterinarians to offer prevention programs and pass out educational materials.
Remember, dogs are man’s best friend for a reason: most of them are amazingly well-mannered creatures that just want to love you, eat decent food and perhaps drool on the carpet with no ill intent. But at the end of the day, they are still wild animals in a domestic environment that need our guidance and support. Do your best to be vigilant of their unique needs and prevent easy mishaps from occurring, but don’t worry yourself sick. Dogs are meant to add to the enjoyment of life through their own lovable characteristics. If it gets “ruff,” just remember to reference this article for tips!