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Monkey Business

Canine clashes – Dawg-gone deputy

On Sept. 12, 2001, my neighbor shot my dog with a bee-bee gun because Mick, a crazy but lovable Irish setter, had jumped my fence and raced over to my neighbors’ house (looking for companionship, I am sure). The big, red, gangly dog – just three years old – had apparently opened the neighbors’ sliding glass door with his long nose and meandered into the kitchen, startling the woman of the house. Her husband was only trying to scare Mick when he shot him.When I returned home that night, my other neighbor intercepted me and told me that my Irish setter was lying at the end of my property – he was dead. Before he collapsed, Mick was able to jump back over my fence. The neighbor who shot my dog was devastated that he killed Mick. So was I.I remember walking into the house that night, switching on the television, and, as I glanced at the reruns of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, I sobbed. Mick was a visiting dog – I had been taking care of him for a friend of mine who was very ill. How would I explain this to my friend? I had tried everything to keep Mick inside the fence, including the addition of barbed wire around the top, but at times he was compelled to go, even though he was neutered and surrounded by three other companion dogs.Regardless of my sadness, I did not blame my neighbor. Some people, however, panic when they are confronted with a free-roaming canine. In Falcon there is no leash law, with the exception of areas like Woodmen Hills, so it is not against the law for the animals to run. But we all take a risk when our animals roam free.On Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, another dog-related incident took place in my neighborhood.I have, as of this date, been unable to obtain the sheriff’s report (it took seven days to get through the red tape just to request the report), so this month’s “Monkey Chronicles” is based on conversations with neighbors involved and the deputy’s supervisor.The sheriff’s deputy* was called to our neighborhood on Oct 11, rather late, after one of my neighbors discovered upon arriving home that her dog had been severely injured. Hours later, the same deputy knocked on my other neighbors’ door and instructed them to get their dogs out of their kennels. He told my neighbors he was calling an animal welfare officer to come and get all three of their dogs. The deputy believed the dogs were responsible for the injuries of the other neighbor’s dog.The neighbors whose dogs were taken away say that the deputy surmised that the dogfight occurred through my neighbors’ fence. (We are not sure as of this date how the deputy came to his conclusions – no report yet, remember.)The accused dogs are always contained in a fence on their five acres. The injured dog must have left her yard, sauntered across the street to the accused neighbors’ property. What happened after that, no one knows. However, it’s possible that the accused dogs were simply defending their territory.Or a hungry coyote might have wandered on the street and looked at all the dogs as dinner, finding the free-roaming dog the easiest target. Another possibility, but no one knows because no one saw what happened.The deputy’s supervisor says the deputy based his decision to haul off the dogs on the state statute that forbids people from harboring vicious dogs. He also says the deputy had sufficient reason to believe the dogs were dangerous. What was the deputy’s proof?The sergeant also says dogs who are defending their territory constitute an “affirmative defense,” according to the statute.The neighbor who owns the injured dog admits she didn’t know why she called the sheriff. Another neighbor says he talked to the deputy prior to the incident about how the accused dogs sometimes intimidated his own dogs, but he was insistent that he also saw nothing on this occasion. And there has never been another complaint filed against the accused dogs.Here’s the bottom line: All parties, including the deputy, admit no one saw the incident, and everyone corroborates that the accused dogs were behind their fence on their property. (And if the “law” thinks I am remiss writing about this before I’ve seen the report, well, tough – get your system to release the report in a timely manner and please tell your public servants to call me back once in a while.)Here’s my bottom line: I have seen what happens when dogs threaten other dogs’ territories. My three dogs are neutered and as gentle as lambs to humans. My alpha male, Tanka, once picked up a crying baby kitten and brought it to me in his mouth so I could give the kitty some attention. Tanka has encountered more than one child who has tried to sit on him and pull his tail – no reaction from Tanka. He just sits down. But let some other canine try to enter his property, especially if I am not present, and he’ll become vicious.With that in mind, why is the sheriff’s deputy involved? We live in the country, we have a no-leash law, we live on five to 10 acres, and I like to think we settle things the old-fashioned way – working it out among neighbors, without the law.So, here we are. The injured dog is still, as of the time we published, alive and recovering from his injuries. His injuries were severe, and I feel bad for him. However, on the other side of the fence, one of the accused dogs was euthanized and the other two are confined at the humane society (they are only three years old) until a court date is set.The dogs have never been jailed before, and one of them hasn’t been eating. It makes me sick. Although I believe this should have been worked out between neighbors, I am not angry with the injured dog’s owner. I am furious with the deputy; I am livid with the system. I am tired of government interference. Again, I have not seen the report, but I know the accused dogs. And they are not vicious – they are territorial. Go figure.We don’t have all the facts, but this I know: The two Great Danes, currently incarcerated at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, are my buddies. I take care of them when my neighbors are out of town. We trade services. They are big dogs, larger than my thick, Chow/Newfoundland/Shepherd mixes, and I am 5 ft. plus 3 and one-half inches and weigh no more than 100 pounds. The dogs have never intimidated or harmed me. They have never been aggressive. They are loving and sweet.However, regardless of my opinion, we are talking about dogs that were confiscated because they were defending their own property. I’ve seen the injured dog trying to tease the accused dogs on other occasions; the accused dogs were always behind their fence. Maybe the injured dog just lost the battle of the territories.The injured dog has its own history of a territorial bad attitude. I stopped walking my dogs (who were always on leashes) down my street because the injured dog used to run out on the street and go after my dogs. I stopped riding my bike because the injured dog ran out on the street and tried to bite my leg. But I didn’t complain. There’s no leash law – it’s the code of the West.And out west, we have a “Make My Day” understanding. If a human is on your property without your permission, you can shoot him. One deputy from the sheriff’s department says if a dog descends upon your property, you can shoot-to-kill the dog if he is trying to harm a human or livestock. Maybe the injured dog was trying to harm the accused dogs. Would it have been better if my neighbors had shot the free-roaming dog? Maybe, but no one saw the incident.The state has filed the charge – harboring a vicious dog. Now all of us in Falcon need to pack up our dogs and take them to jail because many of them could be vicious and guilty – guilty of natural dog tendencies. It’s a canine rule, Mr. Deputy- no strange dog is allowed in another’s territory.There is no proof in this case that the accused dogs are accomplices to the crime. Dogs who bark when humans meander down the street on foot or horseback are not vicious. And because a human might be intimidated by the size of a dog is not proof of vicious behavior.The deputy made a decision, and, regardless of what is in the report, he couldn’t possibly know the whole story. He assumed the accused dogs were vicious and guilty.I am starting to feel territorial, too. I don’t like the idea that the “law” can simply come on my property late at night, knock on my door and “arrest” my dogs – without investigating the other side.In the end, one dog was injured – as of this writing she’ll survive – and two dogs remain enclosed in a kennel without sunshine or fresh air. My neighbors, who are missing their beloved dogs, are out big bucks, and the friendly feel of the neighborhood is no longer. What’s worse than that? I’ll tell you: What’s worse is the risk to our freedom and our individual rights.It is imperative that we keep our community, our children and our pets out of harm’s way, but it is also essential that law enforcement officials respect our rights and those of our pets. It is my dogs’ right and the rights of my neighbors’ dogs to defend their territories – they are defending me and my neighbors, and we feel safer because of it.If you agree, please write me at mlmon@att.net.Meanwhile, we’ll do a follow up article on this situation next month.*Names have been withheld because this is a court-pending case.

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