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Old February 11, 2010, 04:20 PM   #1
MTT TL
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Dogs and Personal Protection

I am curious.

If you deem that your life is in danger and you "release the hounds" literally... what are the legal and civil rules that come into play? I realize that this varies due to jurisdiction but what are the basics here?

I got to wondering because the wife turned almost turned the dog on a random stalker yesterday and it got us to wondering. She was not sure how much danger she was in and weird stalker dude eventually backed off (probably because of the dog). She caries sometimes but when walking the dog she often does not because the dog is... well enormous and very protective. Effectively the only weapon she had was the dog as the person was a larger male. I think in the future she will carry with the dog but weirdly this encounter convinced that the dog was sufficient. In my mind the dog is great. Until an attacker is well armed.

For sake of the argument let us assume that the dog in question is quite capable of inflicting fatal injuries to a person so we are dealing with possible use of deadly force. Even a if the dog were restrained eventually he could inflict critical debilitating injuries.
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Old February 11, 2010, 04:44 PM   #2
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The problem I see, is effective restraint of the dog once the threat is ended, or the dog attacking a 3rd party once his aggressive instincts are aroused.

I also have a rather protective dog. I carry 99.9943% of the time though, so I'm not likely to allow my dog to resolve a defensive threat rather than using the gun (if either level of force is required I'm not going to put my dog's safety at risk... I'll use $5 worth of ammo instead.)

My rule of thumb is that I'm never going to actually release my dog on someone, outside of my own property, though. If an aggressor gets close enough that my dog doesn't like him/her, then the aggressor deserves whatever they get. Stray inside of leash distance and attempt to hurt me or my dog, and I have no pity for you for the results you earn.

ETA: One last thing. I don't know about you, but my dog is my only household companion. He's a dear friend and I have no wish to risk his legal or physical safety by using him as a defensive weapon. I do my best to protect him from such situations because I love my dog. I'd be ashamed and unable to forgive myself if my lack of preparedness resulted in my dog acting to defend me, then getting put down by animal control afterwards.
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Old February 11, 2010, 04:56 PM   #3
maestro pistolero
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My dog is family to me. And tough as she is, she is defenseless against an armed intruder. I only want my dog alerting me to a threat and perhaps as a deterrent. Nope, until my dog learns to shoot, I'll be handling the miscreants myself, thank you very much.
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Old February 11, 2010, 04:57 PM   #4
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We currently reside in a private apartment complex, where she walks the dog. Technically when she leaves the townhouse she is on community (private) property. The weird stalker dude was located on the community property as part of a contract work crew. He will not be back, at least not as part of the crew.

He did come inside of the leash distance, albeit very briefly. In Georgia my understanding is that the Castle Doctrine is only inside of your dwelling.

Just to make it clear, we don't see the dog as a weapon per se, he is part of the family. She just happens to feel comfortable walking the dog unarmed as he is so large and protective. In fact the dog is much larger than she is and more than capable of dealing with most unarmed two footed threats.
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Old February 11, 2010, 05:16 PM   #5
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This is where I disagree on the debate because I do not believe in the premise.

I have dogs for companionship, and they are little noise makers. But I would never send them out to face the enemy looking for me.

Simply, if the felon is motivated to hurt me, he'll kill the dog. And if that felon is so big, strong and bulletproof, then neither I nor the dogs should be facing him.

In my neck of the woods a lot of pimps and bangers have attack dogs, and I'll bet the reason is much the same in your area. The owner doesn't have the stones to fight his own battles. I won't risk the dog.
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Old February 11, 2010, 05:37 PM   #6
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Interesting.

Three responses with no relation to the topic of the thread. Since no one knows the answer and instead seems intent on posting unrelated emotional responses about how much they love their dog or seems to care about the legal impact of their pooch and his actions I am going to request the mods close it before it gets silly and stupid.

Quote:
I have dogs for companionship, and they are little noise makers. But I would never send them out to face the enemy looking for me.

Simply, if the felon is motivated to hurt me, he'll kill the dog. And if that felon is so big, strong and bulletproof, then neither I nor the dogs should be facing him.

In my neck of the woods a lot of pimps and bangers have attack dogs, and I'll bet the reason is much the same in your area. The owner doesn't have the stones to fight his own battles. I won't risk the dog.
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Old February 11, 2010, 05:45 PM   #7
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If I were a District Attorney, I'd treat a dog attack like the use of any other weapon - if you would have been justified in shooting or stabbing the attacker, than the dog attack should be justified as well.

One potential legal "gotcha" is what happens if the bad guy attempts to retreat. With a gun, you can stop shooting at that point (and frequently are required to do so by law.) But with a dog, unless you can command it to break off the attack *instantly* when the attacker starts to flee, you may have legal or civil problems.
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Old February 11, 2010, 05:55 PM   #8
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In this day and age your dog will probably be taken away and you get a harboring a dangerous animal charge. If a person comes on your property you may still be under this. I would be careful about sicing a dog on anyone these days.
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Old February 11, 2010, 06:15 PM   #9
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I believe the legal stance on this is the lack of control over the dog if it is loosed against an attacker.

A person may draw a gun but then restrain from using it if the attacker backs off.

Once loosed, control of the dog might be difficult and result in injury or death for the attacker even though the attacker backed off.

Even if on the property the attacker should be given a chance (legally) to back off and leave. A dog might not allow this.

If inside the house I believe it becomes an entirely different situation because the dog lives in the house and was not “loosed” upon the attacker.

However, I’m not a lawyer; I don’t even play one on TV.
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Old February 12, 2010, 07:10 AM   #10
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It seems very straightforward to me.

- If you train your dog and use him as a defensive tool, you have to be able to control him. So if someone attacks you, you set the dog on him, and then he retreats, you have to be able to call the dog off.

- If your dog is simply protective, that's how dogs work. It's your responsibility to make sure he isn't a loose cannon, but if you and the dog are minding your own business when you're attacked, and the dog jumps to your defense, that's not you using a "weapon" on someone.

The thug has created that situation by attacking you. He might change his mind halfway through when the dog stands up to him, and like a reasonable human being you'd try to call him off, but he can't complain if he gets torn up.

It's little different from if he tried to burn your house down, had a change of heart halfway through, but got trapped and died. Unfortunate, but he created an uncontrollable situation.
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Old February 12, 2010, 07:34 AM   #11
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The simple truth is that even if the attack by the dog succeeds

the bad guy is still going to be alive to contradict everything you say... hopefully there will be witnesses but if this is a pro-bad guy then there probably won't be.... So, then there you are with a chewed up piece of scum telling everybody "this person's dog attacked me.... I wasn't doing nuthing.."

I love my dogs and they are much better at telling me when something or someone is around...but as for protection... I'd lock them in the bedroom first.
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Old February 12, 2010, 12:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottRiqui
One potential legal "gotcha" is what happens if the bad guy attempts to retreat. With a gun, you can stop shooting at that point (and frequently are required to do so by law.) But with a dog, unless you can command it to break off the attack *instantly* when the attacker starts to flee, you may have legal or civil problems.
I think this is exactly right. I don't know specific laws on this topic, but as a matter of common sense, as well as the ethics of self defense, it seems to me that if you have a dog that's large enough to do serious damage to someone, and protective enough of you that this would be likely if you were threatened, you must keep the dog under control, either by physically restraining it or by ensuring that it is very well trained - well enough that you will, for instance, be able to call it off someone who is retreating or submitting.

For most of us, this probably means working with a professional trainer, both to train the dog, and to learn, ourselves, how to handle it -- just as we'd get professional training in the use of any other weapon.
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Old February 12, 2010, 01:05 PM   #13
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Go directly to a lawyer or attorney for advice.

Its not that simple when you use a dog.

Call your Insurance company see how fast they cancel your policy .
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Old February 12, 2010, 01:12 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noyes
Its not that simple when you use a dog.
I don't think any choice or action is simple when someone's safety hangs in the balance. My belief is that all decisions on this topic are visceral. It's not like pondering whether to have the scrambled eggs or the pancakes.

As for an investigation by the police or the DA, they will always get involved when a felony, an attack injury or death is involved.

But as another member mentioned, my emotions direct my commentary here.
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Old February 13, 2010, 01:27 AM   #15
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.....

Last edited by noyes; February 13, 2010 at 07:46 AM.
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Old February 13, 2010, 08:19 AM   #16
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Decisions to use lethal need to pass non-emotional scrutiny in court but are often made with much more emotion than logic. Reality deems that if you "fear for your life" than you are in a highly charged emotional state.

The dog is totally untrained as a guard dog but is empathic to a degree. He recognizes the wife's moods and when she unhappy with someone he might throw out a growl (although oddly he never growls otherwise). I can count on one hand the number of times he was uncontrollable by her, even briefly. However there is no way for her to physically control the dog if he is not in the mood to be physically controlled. I am a fairly large guy myself and it is a challenge for me to physically control him, although I can.

He always responds when anyone approaches the house when she is home, even me. However, he has never had to confront anyone intent on doing physical harm either so we are not 100% sure how he would react in any case.

My insurance company does not seem to care if I have a dog.
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Old February 17, 2010, 07:12 PM   #17
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I have a suspicion that much of the response depends on the dog--a big retriever (and here I am including the Newfoundlands and friendly Danes (Marmaduke effect)) defending a kid or small/senior/disabled adult will get a very different response than a irritable Doberman--a happy go lucky Labrador being walked into the courtroom probably will not get the same response as a Dobie or Rott (for instance, my mother is less than 5 feet tall and all 3 of our retrievers have been protective of her) from the jury
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Old February 17, 2010, 10:57 PM   #18
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A recent local case shed some light on this topic. The details of the case are not as important as the arguments over whether the owner was criminally liable for the acts of the dog. One of the defense's arguments was that the dog had NOT been trained to attack and was not under the owner's total control. In short, the defense won on the basis that the dog had a mind of its own and acted on its instincts, but the dog was incapable of criminal intent.
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Old February 17, 2010, 11:35 PM   #19
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No matter what you believe, you cannot control a dog once it becomes agressive. Your dog tears up a trespasser, you are going to be sued.
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Old February 22, 2010, 09:24 AM   #20
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Quote:
My insurance company does not seem to care if I have a dog.
Mine did, as well as most of the ones I contacted when I was trying to get home owners insurance for a new house a few years back. There is actually a list of dogs (around 10-12 breeds) that will cause you MAJOR grief with the insurance companies.


We have two Rotties. As has been mentioned already by others, they are family members, and are treated as such. They have no "attack" training, and none is needed, they do have discipline training though, as should all dogs.

I think most dogs that are kept in the house as pets will respond just like any other family member to a threat to a loved one, and probably sooner, as they dont have the programing to hesitate that we have had instilled into us. With Rotties, this is much more of a issue, as they are fiercely loyal to the family, and usually specifically more so to one person in the family. In our house, that person has always been my wife.

Over the years, we have had a couple of incidents (we've owned Rotties for 20+ years now), which for the most part all turned out OK for all parties involved, including the dogs. In most cases, my wife and kids were the reason for the incidents, and not so much that my wife loosed the dogs, but that the dogs made the decision themselves, and intervened. While no one was bitten, one kid was knocked down and ''restrained". In all cases, the dogs responded to an act I would have also responded to, so I believe the responses were appropriate, others did not. Oh well, such is life with big, "mean looking" dogs.

We choose to have these dogs for a couple of reasons. One is just the companionship. 99.9% of the time, these dogs are pure babies, and they are just 120-130 pound lap dogs. They are just big goof balls for the most part, and great family dogs.

Another, is security. They are our alarm system, and an instantly proactive one if the alarm goes past the first stage. Where we live, we dont have 911, and if we're lucky, the Troopers will get here in under a half an hour to take the report. Until then, we are on our own.

I think you have to look at the dogs the same as you carrying a gun. Either way, you will probably encounter the same aftermath (to some extent) if either are used to solve the problem. You can choose to worry about what "might" happen if you should, and put yourself at risk by doing things with that mindset, or you can live life as you want, with the same knowledge and a more realistic approach, and accept the fact that you may (or may not) have to deal with things afterwords. I would prefer to prevail, and survive as unscathed as possible, and then worry about dealing with the issue. An issue that may never occur. Unfortunately, the insurance companies are still trying to do our thinking for us.
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Old February 22, 2010, 02:30 PM   #21
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Here is the key to the answer

Quote:
I got to wondering because the wife turned almost turned the dog on a random stalker yesterday
The law considers the threat and disparity of force. Your wife is at a disadvantage to the stalker due to women are generally weaker than men and usually smaller than their attacker. The use of a dog for self defense would be considered reasonable. If a man that is 6'2", 245 lbs, used his dog against an unarmed person that is 5'7", 150 lbs, then it would not be reasonable because the 6'2" guy normally would not be in life threatening danger from the smaller person. Same is true for using a firearm, knife, baseball bat, etc.
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Old February 22, 2010, 03:43 PM   #22
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Don't make up your mind before reading all the threads here about defending yourself against attacking dogs.
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Old February 22, 2010, 08:58 PM   #23
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For the record the man was about 40 pounds heavier and several inches taller than the wife. This made him slightly smaller than the dog, at least in weight.

IT seems to be over now but he was definitely following her around for a time. She did take to carrying much more studiously. The whole situation was bizarre as she is not the type to attract a stalker. Not that she isn't good looking, she just isn't the type to attract a stalker.
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Old February 24, 2010, 11:46 AM   #24
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I would automatically assume there would be more legal implications if she were out in public and deployed the dog or the dog bit because the guy crossed some boundaries. Especially if the dog bit and there were no witnesses…etc. He/said, she/said is never a good scenario especially for the dog.

On the other hand, if the guy is on your property and you have a sign posted I would assume that you would be a little more protected by the law. I train dogs and have trained protection dogs that are not just “dogs” they are our companions and part of the family. With that said if I have to I will deploy my dogs in a heartbeat; if they had not already picked up on the possible threat and alarmed.

My dogs are much more protective when alone with my girlfriend, they will bite but they are also trained to sound or ‘bark’ on command. Even if your dog is not protection trained I would invest some time and effort into training him/her to bark on command even if he/she won’t bite. I don’t know many people that have enough courage to walkup on a barking dog even a small/medium size dog. Often protection training is not needed…barking dogs can be extremely intimidating. Just ask a mailman

I am sorry I can’t answer the question as related to the legal aspects of the dog biting.
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Old March 25, 2010, 02:09 AM   #25
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Don't ever count on the dog to defend you. Count on yourself and your own proficiency with a firearm.
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