Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith
When you think about adding a residential or commercial dog kennel to your property you are probably thinking about having a safe and secure place for your canines to reside while you are elsewhere. That’s a smart move, not just for their safety but also for the safety of your neighbors’ pets and livestock.
In today’s litigious world, all dog owners are liable for controlling their dog’s behavior and may be sued for damages. While our wonderful canine companion, whether a large or small breed, may be perfectly behaved when we are present, their behavior can change considerably when they have freedom to roam. This is especially true if there is an opportunity for the dog to run with a canine compatriot or two. Dogs will be dogs after all.
I have had several miserable experiences with my own dogs and horses, when neighbors’ dogs have escaped their homes or owners, and arrived on my property.
In one instance, our 14 year-old daughter Chelsea, let our Miniature Schnauzer, Chase, out to do his business early one frosty morning. Our obedient little fellah bounded off to his designated ‘patch’ as she watched from the doorway. Within seconds two large Chows came out of nowhere and started to attack our dog. One picked him up in its giant mouth while the other Chow pulled on the back of the dog. They were certainly going to tear him to pieces.
Our 90-pound daughter screamed and ran out to the pack and tried to rescue our beloved family pet. As I prepared breakfast I heard the ruckus and screams and looked out the window to see this horrific scene unfold. Now I was screaming too. I ran out the door praying that Chelsea would heed my shouts to not approach the dogs. Meantime, she had picked up a small rock she found at the edge of the driveway, and hurled it at the Chows and ran towards them waving her arms in the air and shouting at them.
Thankfully her aim was good and the rock hit one of the Chows on its shoulder and it dropped our bleeding dog on the ground. Chelsea ran to pick him up and the Chows backed away. By this point I had reached them and I shouted at the dogs too and they ran off. After an expensive surgery later, we had our dog back in one piece. Chase died earlier than perhaps he should, as the area where his intestines were repaired grew a tumor a few years later.
The same Chows escaped again, and came back to our house to check out if they could espy our dog. Needless to say I chased them off. When I complained to the neighbor he apologized and said the dogs kept breaking out of his house. He admitted his dogs had since eaten a neighbor’s pet rabbit, that had been caged on the porch of their house and that the child who owned it was devastated, as he had witnessed the occurrence.
While I did not sue for damages and paid the vet bill out of pocket, I certainly could have done so. If my neighbor had provided a safe and secure environment for his dogs these events would not have transpired. Dogs will be dogs, and I did not blame the Chows. Apparently at home he claimed that they were perfectly fine and behaved well with his kids. While I might not have altogether believed him, I was left with a permanent worry that this event would happen again. My daughter could have been seriously injured. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
This was not the first time one of my smaller breeds of dog had been attacked by a larger canine.
Many years before we bought our farm we had rescued a small poodle type beastie off the street at J.F.K. Airport.
One night while I was waiting patiently at the office for hubbie to arrive back from New York City so we could go home, this thin and mangy little dog replete with fish hooks in his coat arrived at the plate glass doors to the office. The neighborhood was a dangerous one, so those doors were securely locked as I was alone. However, this little white apparition appeared and looked soulfully at me from the darkness, his dark eyes shone in the amber streetlight. I succumbed and unlocked the door and he bolted into the foyer and hid under the reception desk.
I tried to coax him out with a stale doughnut that I found in the office break room, but to no avail. In the end I just gave him the doughnut, which he ate hungrily. One of the company drivers came back meantime and when I showed him the dog he was horrified.
“Dogs run in packs at the airport,” he told me,“ He’s probably feral and has rabies and all sorts.” The driver rushed out of the office and went home. He wanted nothing to do with this project.
When my husband arrived I told him about the dog, and asked if we could take it home. He knelt down and tried to coach out the dog, advising me not to reach out but to let it come to me. Slight progress was made and the dark eyes of the pooch came into view, as it crouched just out of reach.
“O.K. This is what we’ll do. I’ll fetch the car and park around front. If the dog will get in the car we’ll take him home. If he runs off across the airport field we’re not running after him. It’s too dark and too dangerous.”
There were trucks parked on the street in front of the office doors so hubbie had to double park the company car, a new Buick with light tan velour seats. Well. It was 1982! He opened the back door of the car and the office door and called to the dog, another doughnut in hand. The little apricot tangled mess of a poodle shot out the door, past hubbie and jumped straight into the car and sat dead center of the back seat. My husband sighed. “ Well that I didn’t expect.”
We named our new dog, Twist, after his curly matted hair and our British affinity for the Oliver Twist tale. He was an awesome dog. He came everywhere with us and loved the car. One day while we were at the barn where we kept our horses at livery, we were enjoying hand grazing the horses by the car after a long ride. My father was over for a visit, and a work colleague and his heavily pregnant wife were with us to enjoy a summer afternoon. Twist was let out the car to do his business and around the corner came a Doberman Pinscher, one of two that were the property of the barn owner.
Usually they were not loose, but I had met them a few times before when I caught them ‘ratting’ down the aisleway of the 40 stall horse barn when I arrived late one night to check on my sick horse. Aptly called Angel and Lucifer, the male dog went for our little Twist. The large jaw of the Doberman gripped our dog and shook it mercilessly back and forth for the kill. In horror, Paul and I handed the lead ropes to our horses to our non-horsey friends and both attempted to get Lucifer to drop Twist. My father, who is scared of dogs, also joined in the fray. With three of us punching the Doberman and yanking on his spiky collar, it took a square hit from my husband to the dog’s nose for it to drop my pet. I grabbed Twist and ran for the safety of the car, blood was everywhere. Our little dog received emergency surgery and he did recover and actually lived to a ripe old age.
Meantime the barn owner who came running when other boarders had located him and told him of the event, was horrified to see my white shirt and tan breeches covered with blood. For a split moment he thought I had been bitten. He was relieved when I said no, it was blood from our dog.
I do confess that when Twist was aging and we felt it was time for another dog, we went with a large breed. A Rottweiler. This beautiful purebred dog, Bonnie, was awesome with our twins and three year old. As they grew up she would sit and watch them play in the yard from the back porch. When I called the kids to come in for tea, Bonnie would bounce off the porch and gently herd them all toward the back door. At least the worry of her being attacked by a larger dog was not in my mind and I felt our children had some protection.
I do not blame the Doberman. It was his territory and he was allowed free to roam it. If a safe and secure kennel had been provided the incident would never have happened. We all know that our dogs can behave differently in different situations, and that we cannot always be handy to control them.
I have experienced other issues with errant dogs arriving at our farm, chasing horses in the pasture and in one case causing stifle damage to one of our Grand Prix dressage horses.
So if you are contemplating minimizing your liability of dog ownership and keeping your dogs safe, a kennel is a great investment. Dogs will be dogs after all!