Truth or Consequences... 
Dogs Running Loose on the Ranch

by Carol Rawle

By now most of us are aquainted with the recent dog mauling case in California where a dog owner was convicted of second degree murder when her dogs mauled her neighbor to death.  It's been my experience that most dog owners will insist that THEIR dogs would NEVER do anything like that!  I can't count the number of times a dog owner told me their dogs would never bite anyone, then the next instant the dog was taking a bite out of ME!  Their reaction was invariably one of total shock and fear.  Shock that they didn't know their dog was capable of such a thing, and fear I was going to arrest them for it!  (Most of you know I used to be a California park ranger.)

How does this relate to our ranch dog "problem"?  I'm raising this issue once again because I do not believe that a good many of our ranch dog owners are being honest with themselves about the consequences of allowing their dogs to roam free.  I've written about this subject before, but the problem of dogs running on the ranch has not gotten any less serious.  I believe this is due to the stubborn belief of some dog owners that their dogs couldn't possibly pose a threat to anyone.

Being in denial about this possible threat to the safety of your neighbors is not going to provide any defense against being arrested when your dog bites someone, or against the lawsuit that victim is going to bring against you for permitting a dangerous nuisance.  Or against the guilt you will probably have to live with should your dog seriously injure or kill one of your neighbors. 

It has always surprised me that so many people can own dogs, yet know so little about dog behavior and psychology.  Dogs are pack animals; they love to be part of your family group, and that's why they make such wonderful pets.  However, that can also be what makes them a possible threat to your neighbors and any strangers.

You may know your dog as a lovable member of your family, but you really don't know how that dog will react to every other person outside your family he comes into contact with.  Most dogs will be suspicious, if not downright hostile, to strangers.  Unless your dog is under your IMMEDIATE control when he meets a stranger, you can have no way of anticipating what he will do! The only way you can know with absolute certainty that your dog will not be a threat to strangers is if your dog responds to your commands INSTANTLY and EVERYTIME, without exception! And I ask you how you can command your dog if you allow him to roam?  Do you know for certain what your dog is doing when he is off roaming free?  Do you want to find out the hard way when the sheriff shows up at your door?

The dog owner who allows their dog to run free will explain that they do this because they feel this is the best way for the dog to "protect" their property.  My counter arguement is that any dog that is off annoying the neighbors who live down the road or on the opposite ridge is NOT protecting their owner's property.  If, by some miracle of chance, the dog happens to be hanging around outside the house on a day a stranger desides to visit, that dog just might decide that his job description includes taking a bite out of the visitor.  Lawsuit time.

All dog bites are a crime.  It's not considered an "accident" if your dog bites someone, on or off your property.  You are subject to arrest if it occurs.  Permitting your dog to roam is also against the law in this county.  It is also against the SFTR covenants.  The cold, hard truth is that a dog owner who permits their dog to roam and be a nuisance on the ranch can be subject to legal action.

Recently it was brought to the attention of the Sheriff's Department of Las Animas County that our ranch was having certain problems that could possibly require enforcement action.  They assured us that any complaint brought to the department would be treated seriously and every attempt would be made to enforce all county and state laws on the SFTR.

If any ranch property owner is at their wits end over a problem that they are having with a neighbor's dog or dogs, I am urging you to have a talk with the sheriff's office today.  You don't need to live with the problem any longer.  Why wait for tragedy and heartache?

To those ranch dog owners who insist that their roaming dogs are not a problem, I urge you to reconsider the consequences of this practice.  Are you ready for them?