"The Peeing Post"
Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature
Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen
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Responsible Dog Ownership
Being a responsible dog owner involves more than just giving your dog food and water, as I am sure you do understand. I am also sure you are fully aware that you will only get to truly enjoy your dog if you give it a decent dog life, with a good pack leadership. Good pack leadership involves giving your dog work to do that makes sense for the dog. You need to take the dog's nature as a hunter and a highly social pack animal into consideration when you assess what makes sense - but when you shift your paradigm to seeing the dog's world through wolf's eyes, it actually becomes easy. I hope you can see it - and that it makes sense also to you.
Till now, we have focused exclusively on the relationship between you and your dog. Whether you like it or not, you are not the only person having a say about that. No, I am not talking about your family; I am talking about your neighbor - and the society we all live in. You are not free to do what you want with your dog. You have to comply with certain rules of society, including the law. In addition to this, I seriously hope that you will also be a good advocate for the dog owner community. We need your support too.
Let's discuss the legal issues first.
In terms of the law, your dog is a commodity for which you are liable, as the owner. It is the same as with your car. You can buy it and sell it as you please - and you will pay for any damage you do with it to other people's property.
Being a live animal, however, the dog does have a little more protection against violence than your TV. All civilized countries have laws that prohibit cruelty to animals. What "cruelty" is varies a lot, though... In some European countries, dogs have certain rights that make them more valuable than other animals. In North America, however, dogs are just "pet" animals, with no specific rights whatsoever.
As we discussed earlier about dog food, dogs are not protected against commercial exploitation by any government agencies. The pet food industry is "self regulated", which basically means it can do what it wants to make money on dog owners. The same goes for all other products that are manufactured to be used on dogs or other animals, such as health care products. In those industries, a manufacturer can use production methods and ingredients that are outright illegal to use for humans - and no safer to use for dogs. As we already discussed, you cannot rely on any veterinarian endorsing the product on the label. Those veterinarians are paid for participating in those commercials - and their education generally does not warrant them being called "experts" in those areas that call for chemical knowledge.
Here is a list of crap you just simply don't buy - ever:
My point is: use your common sense. There are no laws to protect you if you don't. The maximum you can claim in a lawsuit against somebody who sold you something that caused your dog severe trauma, or even death, is the commercial price for another dog. That's it. Add to that the legal costs of suing, and you come out a sure loser.... (Maybe you understand now why manufacturers get away with so much when it is "just" for dogs....?)
Another legal issue is your liability. When you own your dog, you are also legally liable for any damage your dog does, be it on purpose or not. It does not have to be your dog attacking somebody. All it takes for you to end up in court defending yourself is that your dog gets scared and pulls you over by jerking on the leash. From there, anything can happen.
Another liability example is your dog protecting your home. Even if you get a "visit" of a burglar, your dog is not supposed to injure other people, burglars included. If it does so anyway, not knowing the law, you will still end up paying the price when the burglar sues you for assault - and wins his case, burglary or not! I am not kidding you - there are many examples of this in North America. Many!
As you see, there are quite a few ways a dog can ruin you. The possible damages to your own house and furniture are the least. Your liability is by far the worst... You have two ways of protecting yourself:
Let's cover the insurance first. Many home owners' insurance and tenant insurance policies will also offer liability coverage for your dog or for "animals owned by you". Make sure you got such an insurance, and make sure that the policy covers regardless the circumstances! Many policies will not cover, if you are in breach of any laws or bylaws at the time of the incident - but that is nothing more than a escape clause for the underwriter, so he will never pay for any damages. If you are walking your dog on leash, and it gets scared so you fall and let go of the leash, you are in breach of the bylaw that demands your dog being on leash when out in public places. If you dog now causes an accident, you need your liability insurance to cover...
Insurance policies are so different from one area to another - I cannot give you any specific recommendations, except this: get such a liability insurance - and make sure it covers without any loopholes for the underwriter to betray you.
The PrePaid Legal coverage is giving you way more than just coverage for your dog. It will cover almost any kind of legal trouble you get into, also civil disputes that do not involve any breaching of laws or any criminal charges. The average North American family has at least 6 legal issue every year that go unresolved because people generally don't feel like spending hundreds of dollars on just calling a lawyer for advice. Few people know that they are more than three times as likely ending up in court defending themselves than they are going to hospital, sick. Now, if you understand and appreciate the value of medical insurance, you will not want to be without legal insurance either. There is only one company that offers true value in this market, and that is PrePaid Legal Services, Inc. I put together some of my own experiences and some of the experiences I know of from other people. Please check them out and see for yourself what kind of support you can get for a very modest monthly membership fee. I can highly recommend it - I have had enormous value of my own membership.
Cheers and woof,
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P.S. There is one more aspect that also is a liability issue, although not in legal terms. I am talking about the general responsibility you carry as a dog owner, representing the entire dog owner community to other people in society, including many who adamantly hate dogs and seriously try to do anything they can to make it impossible for dog owners to fully enjoy their companion dogs.
Every time a dog owner ignores fundamental courtesy to other people and fail to take into account that there are people around who do not like dogs, this dog owner will be seen as a "dog owner", representing all other dog owners. If you let your dog poop on the side walk without cleaning up, other people will see this as a legitimate reason for prohibiting dogs from being taken out for a walk on a public road....
Dogs are no longer allowed in the vehicles of people who visit Yellowstone National Park - for no other darn reason than too many idiotic dog owners letting their dogs chase the bears! The wardens got tired of having to destroy bears that attacked first the dog that bothered them and then the people the dog ran back to in order to seek protection from the bear...
Similarly, dogs are not allowed in many public places - for the very simple reason that too many irresponsible dog owners have ignored too many other people's legitimate rights to not be abused or intimidated by loose dogs that run around all over the place without any control from the owners' side. "He is friendly" does not count. Your ability and willingness to call your dog back before he runs up to other people and other dogs that might be less friendly than him is the only thing that counts. Anything else is irresponsible of you - and it undermines the ability of other dog owners to take their dogs with them - under control.
Seriously, I never visit "off-leash" parks with my dog. Those parks are the last places I want to go with my dog. The reason is simply that, in general, there are far too many people in those parks who don't respect the rules of not letting their dogs run loose unless they are under control. My standard of "control" is that you will stop your dog from running up to my dog, until you and I agree that the dogs can meet. I don't want that decision to be made by neither your dog nor my dog - and also not by you alone! I could be training my dog to follow me closely - or I could be doing some other training that calls for my dog's full attention. Your chances of me being happy for your dog's unwelcome disturbance and interruption of my work are very slim indeed...
We also discussed earlier the negative value of letting your dog have more fun with another dog than it has with you...
So, please respect other people's rights to live their life without your dog's intrusion, dog owners or not. Your dog is for you to enjoy - and control. If you need a leash to exercise your control, then please use one. In particular, I encourage you to demonstrate to people who don't like dogs that all dog owner are responsible - they keep their dogs away from other people, and they always clean up after their dogs. This way, we could hope that we will not see our rights eroded any further - it has gone far enough already, thanks to people who don't care...
I appreciate your co-operation!