A recent study by LiveScience found that there is a correlation between traditionally “aggressive” dog breeds and owners who share those traits associated with difficult dogs. Not surprisingly, people seem to appreciate pets they can relate to: the owners of bull terriers were found to be generally more argumentative, the owners of Labrador Retrievers tend toward friendliness; etc. Furthermore, while few dogs are inherently aggressive, they may become that way by picking up on the attitude of their caretakers.
There’s some good news: even if you do wind up living next door to the Hound of the Baskervilles, you are not at the mercy of a pig-headed neighbor. You may still manage to coexist peacefully with basic conflict resolution skills…or, failing that, take legally-sanctioned action to put a stop to problems your neighbor ignores.
1. Cultivate a relationship with your neighbor.
Although the results of the LiveScience study may not exactly motivate you to take a sheet cake over to Tom and Sherry and their squadron of Rottweilers, doing so lays a foundation for the possibility of friendly discourse in the future. If your first conversation opens with a complaint over dogs, it will be harder for the neighbors to see what a reasonable person you are. However, if you establish goodwill beforehand, they will likely be more receptive to your concerns.
2. Apprise your neighbor of your state’s laws concerning dogs.
Once you have developed a relationship with your neighbor that is not based on virulent dislike (if at all possible), you may look for opportunities to point out that their licentious dog ownership may land them in trouble of they don’t pull in the reins. (Impersonal verbs are advantageous because they do not incriminate you.) With any luck, they will ask what you mean, and you will be able to inform them that in Utah, “Every person owning or keeping a dog is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog” and that they might consider restraining the animal to their own yard.
3. Defend your property line.
A common problem with aggressive dogs is that they establish territory on land that isn’t theirs and try to defend it from those who actually own the property. Once a dog has staked out his turf, it can be very difficult to convince him that it isn’t his to guard. You will probably need the owners to cooperate if you need to reclaim your land (it is here that open communication comes in especially handy).
4. Leave a paper trail.
Should it turn out that your neighbor(s) are as belligerent as their troublesome dog, letting the local authorities in on their behavior might be your next course of action. While filing complaints with animal control may or may not lead to action on their part, having the records of your neighbors’ behavior may prove useful later on.
5. Defend yourself.
This “later on” may be an injury for which you require compensation or an act of self-defense which you need to explain. If you have left a paper trail, your defense will be more plausible should it be necessary to harm the dog in question at any point. You are also within your rights to defend your animals: According to Utah Code, Title 18, “Any person may injure or kill a dog while…the dog is attacking, chasing, or worrying” livestock, service animals, endangered animals, or “domestically animal[s] of commercial value” (this is commonly where pets would fall). Obviously, this does not mean shooting every dog who trespasses on sight; but if you feel that you or yours are being legitimately threatened, you are allowed to take action.
When preemptive action has failed, and you or a family member has been injured in a dog attack, interaction with neighbors and insurance companies may take on a new level of discomfort. In such cases, personal injury attorneys can act as go-betweens and negotiate a compensation settlement while minimizing uncomfortable contact with those responsible. To contact attorneys who can handle dog attacks in Utah, call Christensen & Hymas for a free consultation at (801) 506-0800 or request the Utah Dog Bite and Attack Handbook at UtahAccidentBooks.com.
Image courtesy of State Farm