Monday, August 24, 2009

on being a good neighbor

Saturday night, Charlie went to a baseball game with two of our very good friends, Jim and Tim, who live in a neighborhood about a mile away. Jim and Tim live directly across the street from each other, and both men have children who are similarly aged.

While they were at the game, Tim was telling my husband that last month, his four-year-old son was walking down the street, when out of no where, a small white dog that had escaped from a yard - charged him. It barreled down on the four-year-old, yapping aggressively, with it's teeth bared. The only reason that the dog didn't take a chunk out of the child, was because Tim was right there and reached down and grabbed the dog by the collar. The dog's owner came out, profusely apologizing, and brought the dog inside.

THE VERY NEXT DAY, Jim's adorable four-year-old daughter (with her dimples and glasses and curly ponytails) was walking down the street, when the same little white dog escaped from the house and yapping aggressively, charged the girl.

This time, the dog attacked and bit her in the thigh and calf.

The owner, again, apologized profusely before dragging the poodle back inside. Jim brought his four-year-old in to their house and carefully inspected the bite but because it didn't appear bad enough to take her to the hospital, took photos of the wound to document it.

That was the end of the story. No charges were filed, the dog catcher wasn't called, the offending neighbor walked away unscathed.

Honestly - I'm befuddled.

Our friend Jim is one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet and I know that the reason he didn't get the authorities involved is because he doesn't want to create waves in his neighborhood. This, to me, shows incredible self control.

Because Charlie - who is also a nice guy and will go to great lengths to keep the peace - confessed to Jim that if that dog, who had tried to attack a neighborhood child once already, ever took a bite out of our child's leg, he would have hit it to the moon with a baseball bat.

Upon hearing the story, I confessed that if my husband missed with his swing, I would be fully prepared to back over Fido (a few times) with our minivan. And then, I might have to bludgeon the owner. BECAUSE WHO LETS A DOG THAT ATTACKS CHILDREN, ROAM FREELY OUTDOORS?!?!?!

I'm not sure our tactic of slaying both man and beast is really suitable. So how would you suggest this situation be handled, in the most neighborhood-friendly way possible?


  1. It's not the dog's fault that the owner is irresponsible. As such, I wouldn't harm the dog dog, unless of course it gets harmed in the process of pulling it off my child. I WOULD contact the police immediately. There's no room for being 'neighborly' when the safety of a child is concerned, and I'd honestly not care if my neighbors were mad at me for reporting their vicious dog to the authorities. Unfortunately, it's the dog who will suffer from having irresponsible owners - but at least the children in the neighborhood will be safe.
    Sarah in Ohio

  2. I would anonymously call the non-emergency police number (or animal control) and let them know about the situation. Or I'd log into my town's issue website and log a complaint there. This way no one has their name on the original complaint and people can openly admit their own confrontations with "the dog" when they are asked by the authorities.

  3. I'm with you... I love dogs, but seriously you can't just let your dog attack children (or heck, even adults). Since the dog has a history of doing this, I would not handle it very well. No way.

  4. BlackOrchid8/24/09, 9:35 AM

    heh well having had large dogs and small dogs and medium dogs . . . it was amazing when I had my toy poodle the stuff he got away with relative to my larger dogs. People seemed to think it was "cute" when he growled or even bit. I didn't think so, so I tried my best (he was my childhood dog, my Prince) but he did get a few of my boy pals on the ankle!

    I'm a dog person so probably not the best person to comment. Obviously if it were me, I'd let the owner know they needed to work with the dog, or next time might be the last time for the little guy. They *should* care about that.

  5. We have a strangely similar problem in our neighborhood. There's a dog that lives across the street from us who is, well, quite aggressive. It has bitten another dog that lives just a few doors down and it attacked me (and narrowly missed taking most of my arm and shoulder off) just a few days after my family and I moved into our house. I had done nothing to threaten the dog in any way, other than putting my hands down so it could smell me. I wasn't sure what to do because a) we were new neighbors and we didn't want to ruin any kind of neighborly relationship we were going to build with the dog's owner and b) I don't want the damn thing biting my young son because, like you, I would take a baseball bat and send the dog to the moon.

    So, what did we do? We took lots of pictures of my torn shirt and scrapes/bruises that the dog left on my shoulder, mentioned my attack to all of our neighbors who have young children so they wouldn't suffer the same fate, and I did go over and show my wound to the dog's owner. She was horrified, shocked, upset, etc. etc. As I was showing her, I very firmly told her that I did NOT want that dog anywhere near me or my son and she humbly agreed. Since then, she is very careful to make sure that the dog has a muzzle on when she is walking it in the neighborhood and she does cross the street if I'm outside and nearby.

    Should I have reported it? Maybe. But other than giving her a warning and putting it in a file, I don't know if the police would have moved forward with the case. I certainly wasn't going to press charges because my bite was superficial. No blood, no puncture wounds, just a nice bruise and a ripped shirt. And like I said before, I didn't want to destroy any possibility of having a neighborly relationship with her. In this day and age, those are often hard to come by.

    If I hear of that dog becoming aggressive with anyone else in our neighborhood (and thankfully we live in a very close-knit community), I will most certainly to go to the police with my pictures. I pray that it won't happen again. However, my baseball bat is always at the ready.

  6. If the skin was broken, the child should have been taken to the doctor. In NJ the doctor MUST report dog bites to the state.

    I know someone who has a dog who bites. He especially does not like young children although he once bit a 50 year-old woman (completely unprovoked). He is a lawsuit waiting to happen and the owner walks around oblivious. The owner now has an 18 month-old granddaughter.

    Kathy from NJ

  7. Father of the 2nd child should have reported the dog when he learned that this wasn't the first incident of the dog attacking a child. I get not wanting to make waves in the neighborhood - but how is he going to feel when the dog scars the next kid? Way back in the dark ages (1970's) when I grew up, there were no leash laws. A large basset hound who lived in our neighborhood always terrorized kids and no one did anything about it until my little sister's friend nearly lost her eye when he bit her. She still has a scar on her pretty face and she is 41 now.

  8. I would beat the crap out of my neighbor.

  9. I think I would call the authorities anonymously and tell them about the dog.

  10. I think the owner should be made aware that the dog has his two strikes and that Animal Control will be notified next.

  11. Most important is getting documentation of immunization from the dog owner. Rabies is nothing to be lax about.
    Warn the neighbor that if there is another incident you will be required to report it. I'm a "keeping the peace" type as well so I would say to the dog owner, "I love your little dog but she frightens the kids and even the smallest bite can be dangerous. I don't want to report her for biting but I will if I have to so PLEASE keep her leashed"

  12. I was badly bitten by a neighborhood dog when I was little, and have never really gotten over it. Not my parent's fault, but I am completely 100% terrified of dogs right now. Doesn't matter the size, how big or little the bark, if they jump or don't, whatever. Dogs freak the crap out of me.

    My gut says do everything and anything you can to protect your kids, and who cares what the neighbors the cops and file a report, document the dog on video acting viscous while restrained, whatever it takes. Fight dirty, because I don't want another kid to be so freaking terrified. There are nice dogs out there that I can't even give a chance to, because of some not so nice dogs.

    (ps, have your friend make sure his kids are comfortable with friendly dogs especially after the attacks)

  13. i agree that some action should be taken. this dog has a history of aggression and it is only a matter of time before it charges another child.

    personally, if i had a dog that I knew had bit a child before, I would promptly get rid of the dog- depending on the situation I may put it to sleep. I value the life and safety of children over the life of a dog- not to be mean, but that is how I feel.

    I think that the father should talk to the neighbor and make sure they understand that the dog needs to be kept under control and he has photos to document the situation and will call the police if he feels the situation doesn't improve.

    Tough situation- some people just shouldn't own dogs.

  14. I have always found the local dog officer very responsive, and even more so if several neighbors register their complaints! Some folks don't react well to hearing their dog is Cujo, and not sweet innocent Fido. Most people take heed and change their ways as there are fines ($$) involved with bad dog behavior!

  15. Will freely admit that I am SCARED of getting bit by a dog. If he approached my 2yr old son with aggressiveness all bets are off. I'm an animal lover but mother bear instinct would override.

    My 2¢

  16. Oh goodness, is that the actual dog? It looks horrifying!

    We have chihuahuas, which are notorious for being yappy, mean little dogs. It's so important to us that our dogs be friendly and don't bark at everyone and every sound. We work hard with them to make sure they're friendly. It makes me sad when people think 'oh, it's just my dog's personality' and do nothing about it!

  17. I don't care if calling the authorities disrupts the neighborhood or not. Making waves is a lot better than a hurt child.

    When I was about ten, a neighborhood dog who was known to be aggressive, attacked my older sister as she was walking to her car. She had to have over 250 stitches. Mostly on the back of her head since the dog jumped on her and took her to the ground. She instinctively turned her head so the dog wouldn't bite her face. She also had a deep bite wound on her wrist. The doctors told her that if it had be even a hair deeper, she would have lost use of her hand.

    This dog was known to bite the children that it lived with and would frequently chase other neighborhood children into their houses. Why no one ever called about this dog, I don't know. Maybe so they wouldn't make waves.

    We took the owners of the dog to court and the dog was put down, my sister got a lot of money for the lawsuit and the neighbors moved shortly after.

    The horror I saw that day as my sister screamed, face bloody, under this insane dog is seared into my mind. Keeping the peace in the neighborhood is so not worth it when it comes to safety.

  18. I was hurt badly by a dog when I was a child. In order to try and stop myself from being scared of all dogs I did some research. I am still petrified of dogs because :- 1. it is a mutated wolf.
    2. It may look like a poodle but it thinks like a mutated wolf
    3. If you are it's owner it thinks you are the boss wolf.
    4. If you are not the owner it thinks it is your boss wolf.
    Some dogs have these instincts more strongly than others but in reality, all dogs are wolves.
    I hate them!!

  19. "Neighbor-friendly" goes out the window. This is obviously an ongoing threat. There's nothing neighborly about your neighbor's refusal to take steps to avoid this dog getting out. Call the non-emergency police number and report the incident and ask what you should do . . . before a child is disfigured for life or maimed. Imagine when the child falls and his eye is bitten. Or throat. Yeah, "neighbor-friendly' goes out the window.

  20. I've always been a dog lover (and, at times, owner) but I'm first and foremost a mum. If a dog threatens my child, I'll beat f#@!# daylights out of it. If the dog survives *my* attack then yes, I would report it. I could live with a neighbour who dislikes me far better than I could live with my conscience if that same dog went on to maim or kill a child after an attack I failed to report.

  21. First and foremost, I would consider my neighborhood unsafe and my 4 year old wouldn't be playing out front without me pretty much ON her. I would have reported the first incident, and then I would have taken her to the hospital and reported the second incident. I wouldn't even bother to do it anonymously. Children's safety is more important than a "wavy" neighborhood.

  22. This was taken from the S.D. Dept of Animal Services website...Apparently they DO take bites seriously.

    "Reporting of Bites

    All persons bitten and the parents or guardians of minor children bitten, as well as any person owning or having custody or control of a dog (or other animal of a species subject to rabies) that bites a person, must promptly report the incident to the Department of Animal Services (SDCC Section 62.615[b]). This is necessary so that such animals can be temporarily isolated (as required by law) in an approved place and manner (oftentimes at the owner's residence) and observed for at least 10 days for any symptoms of rabies. This requirement applies whether or not the biting animal has been vaccinated against rabies."

    It would be absolutely fabulous if the victim's parents got over their self-esteem issues and sent a clear message to their neighbor by reporting the incident. For me personally I would try and convince the parents to do the right thing. If they are still unwilling I would call the s.d. department of animal services to see what they would recommend you do. You are a strong person and a caring parent. I know you'd stand up for your kids!

    A person is allowed to stand up for themselves. You can be a good neighbor in other ways.

  23. i realize that this isn't the point, but this dog looks like a spitz, not a poodle.

  24. It's not the dog's fault that the owner is obviously stupid. However, in this situation, safety is obviously a concern. My opinion is that all "neighborly" bets are off. I would never let this go. For some people, the words "not creating waves" a.k.a. "avoiding confrontation" are nothing more than cowardly code phrases. What happens if next time the dog really hurts someone?? Will they feel bad about"making waves" then??

  25. My son was attacked by a dog when he was a toddler, and he still bears the scars on his face nearly 20 years later. That dog also bit me as I pried his teeth out of my son's cheek. Needless to say, I called 911, and the police did a full report. They told me at the time ( I don't know the current law.) that since the dog had bitten twice, I could ask to have it put down. That is exactly what I did, and I don't regret it because I believe that I probably saved other people from being attacked. The owner was not doing her job, and the dog had become a menace to society.

  26. Holy smokes. Your friends need to talk to the neighbor and absolutely report it. Odds are it's hapened before to some other child or adult. The HOA will want to know, also. I live a mile or two from you, but I want this dog restrained for my twins' safety-just in case paths should ever cross!

  27. Oh I'm sorry, did I kick your dog over the fence? As a dog bite survivor I agree that it is the owner's fault, however it's hard to rehabilitate an animal that bites humans. There are only so many chances you can give. In Michigan the law is two bites, I'm sold at one. I love dogs, but small children come first. I would have reported and brought the child right to the hospital for some A+ antibiotics!

  28. That is one scary picture! Your story is similar to what happened to me as I was walking our dogs once..before we had kids. Pit bull came out of nowhere & had it not been for my husband being there at least one of our two shelties would have died, I'm sure. My husband grabbed him by the collar-I'd have panicked and not thought to do that. Was attacked a 2nd time by different dogs. I now carry pepper spray w/ me on all walks. I to owners and call authorities. karen

  29. I'm with what Reno said - tell the neighbour they've had 2 strikes and any further agressive behaviour from the dog, and it will be reported.

    My neighbours have a rottweiler - this dog is a menace. He has smashed the fence to go after my ex husband (it was ok that my ex was in the yard), he has charged at myself, my kids, my other neighbour's kids.. truly awful dog. No fault of his, the owners completely neglect him - when I reported his barking and howling for 3 weeks straight (yes seriously, I had to document it), they got a fine and their solution was to get him a zapper collar - he doesn't bark anymore. So now they have Rex (the rottie) and a yappy weiner dog that doesn't stop barking from sunup to sundown.

    The temptation to do something is overwhelming, but it isn't the dog's fault :(

    My only salvation is that we're moving soon.. (soon can't be soon enough)

  30. I wouldn't want to make waves with neighbors either, but dogs that are not tied up make me nervous! Especially if I'm out with my girls. Especially if they run up to you and bark. Especially if they yip and bite. Especially if I've heard this has happened before.

    I would have no problem talking with the person and or/calling animal control.

    Too risky.

  31. How could you POSSIBLY hurt a dog when IT'S NOT THE DOG'S FAULT??? Do you not understand that dogs, like KIDS, need to be trained? What would you do if you saw your KID biting a dog? KILL THE KID???????????

  32. and one other comment, since I'm pretty incensed at the thought of you or your husband killing a dog. have you ever considered that perhaps it didn't quite happen like that and perhaps a child was irritating the living CRAP out of the dog? Some dogs do bite unprovoked and that is the problem of the OWNER but there are also some awfully mean kids who torture animals!!! so whenever I hear of an animal scratching or biting, I first have to ask, was it TOTALLY unprovoked?

  33. Your methods aound good to me. Do you really think Greg wouldn't kill the dog? I wouldn't even be able to stop him.

  34. Henley: I was a dog owner for years and I fully realize that dogs need to be trained - which is why I'm amazed that in this case, the owner walked away unscathed. It was entirely the owner's fault. however, dogs, regardless of how well they are trained, can be unpredictable.

    From what I understand - the children were walking down the street and the small white dog escaped from the house/yard and CHARGED them. The attack was COMPLETELY unprovoked. If anything, the kids were afraid of the yappy dog and didn't go anywhere near it.

    Now, having experienced an unprovoked dog attack last year when TWO PIT BULLS chased after my son, you damn well better believe that I would kill a dog that attacked my children.


    And then, depending upon the circumstances, I'd go after the owner in a court of law.

  35. Is that picture really the dog????

    I can tell you from experience.. I was recently attacked by a neighborhood rotweiler and had I not had dog repellent spray that I gladly sprayed in his face, I surely would have been chewed on. I was quick to report it to animal control. They made a trip to the house and left a note. The animal control suggested that they just give a warning and wait to see if it happens again, or that I could make a citizens "arrest" type complaint, in which the owners would have to pay a fine.

    I was quick to do the friends and I walk the neighborhood, some pushing children in strollers. I am not willing to "wait and see" if it happens again. It could cost a child, or an adult for that matter, their life.

    If I werre you, I would contact the authorities IMMEDIATELY!!!! If that picture on your blog is truly the dog, he/she looks vicious and deliberate!

  36. I have four dogs. Biting is UNACCEPTABLE behavior in a dog.

    Our city's municipal code requires dog bites to be reported to animal control. You may find your town has a similar rule. You can access your city's municipal code via their website. I think you may find your friend is required by law to report the bite.

    It's a good law.


  37. I love dogs, and I had an agressive dog. However, I was well aware it was my responsibility to keep her under control at all times or else she would be put down. So, I took her to a good class (you need to find a dog trainer with experience with agressive dogs - Pet Smart won't cut it) and learned to be the leader with her. I also never let her off the leash and never out of my control. If I were in the same position, I would go to the neighbor and explain how quickly a dog can be put down for biting and that she needs to get it trained and on a leash ASAP - I would report it if I saw it off the leash again outside (even if it didn't bite anyone). He would be doing the owner a favor to let her know how precarious the position her dog is in, because if she loves her dog she will have to do something about it. Dogs that get in the habit of biting can be trained (with a lot of work) to not immediately bite - but they can rarely be trusted with children or people who don't know how to act around dogs. I loved my dog (she died of natural causes a few years ago) very much and she was a great dog for us, but I never trusted her in situations where I knew she'd be tempted to bite.

  38. Rachel - Kentucky8/26/09, 4:39 PM

    I was wondering too if that was an actual photo of the dog?

    If so that's definitely one of those German Spitz dogs and let me tell ya, our neighbor had one of those things and it was meaner than a hornet. Nasty nasty dog.

    I definitely think that the bite should be reported, if for no other reason than because it's technically the law to do so. You have to report a dog bite even if it's your own dog that bites your own child.