In the business of animal welfare we constantly butt heads with people lacking commonsense or reason. We are partly to blame because we do not word our laws in such a way that applies to every specific circumstance. If we served reasonable people, we could write our laws in a broad sense, but too many in our communities need someone to draw a picture. Unfortunately, because many of our laws are written in a broad sense, we encounter reasonable complaints that provide us no measure to resolve.
It is not uncommon for one neighbor to complain about another neighbor’s dog that aggressively attacks the fence trying to get to passersby. The fence is flimsy, but (so far) has contained the dog(s). The dogs present a threat to the community, but you cannot determine if the it is an immediate threat. Asking the dog owner to strengthen the fence usually falls on deaf ears. The neighbors are upset believing that if (or when) the dog(s) escape their yard, only an attack on a small child will prove their point.
We can use language like: “The confinement structure must be of sufficient strength by which a reasonable person might believe that the structure will confine the animal.” I am not sure that with all of our laws that use the measure of a “reasonable person” has ever found such person. And then the question comes in to play, as to whether that person could be brought into the courtroom to confirm your suspicions about the fence.
I once had a company ask me to indorse invisible fences as a physical barrier to as to satisfy a portion of law that I had written about animal confinement. Even if the batteries are fully charged on an invisible fence system, those fences are CLEARLY not a physical barrier. I could not believe that I was asked to indorse the system for the confinement of an aggressive dog; proof that this distributor didn’t have the sense to understand the weakness in his own system.
Maybe these incidents should be handled like zoning code violations, where a group neighbors sign a complain agreeing that the fence is inadequate and can make their case to the zoning board. Then you just have to wait for your meeting with the board and hope that the dog doesn’t escape the yard and attack someone in the mean time.
I spoke to a group neighbors that were so sure that their neighbor’s dogs were going to escape that they began carrying guns to protect themselves for that day. It is a sorry day when the ignorance of a single dog owner causes us to have to relive the wild west. Anytime you are revising your laws on animal confinement, write this portion of the code very slowly, because this is the portion of the code that frequently brings us the most grief.