LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A LAWYER, AND I DO NOT PLAY ONE ON TV. THESE STEPS MAY OR MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU. CONSIDER OBTAINING LEGAL ADVISE FROM AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR AREA. A REAL ATTORNEY, NOT SOMEONE THAT PLAYS ONE ON TV.
All poultry owners should read, understand and keep a folder with printed copies of the dog laws in their area. Dog laws can be found here:
Also check your state legislature's web site and any city or county web sites and do a search for dog/ animal laws.
Anytime you see a dog running loose, contact the owner. Tell them you are afraid for your poultry. If the dog is a stray, or you don't know who owns it, consider catching it and taking it to the pound.
It's a personal preference if you want to work something out with a neighbor if their dog gets out and kills your birds. It usually depends on things like:
If you decide to shoot the dogs, just do it - if it is legal. You should already be aware of your rights regarding the shooting of dogs on your property because of you previous research. If you are unable to shoot the dog, take the following steps.
- is this a first offense?
- are they good neighbors?
- is the dog a menace?
1. Immediately call law enforcement. Forget "animal control." Unless it's a pit bull grabbing babies out of strollers they are useless. You are not just reporting a loose dog. You are reporting property damage, which is usually at least a fineable offense or a misdemeaner.
2. Make sure that law enforcement talks to and documents all witnesses.
3. Tell law enforcement that you want to press charges. Insist that, at the very least, the dog owner be ticketed. Always be courteous to the officer. He/she has a thankless job. Be as composed as possible. Don't appear aggressive or angry. It's OK to to be crying and grieving though because it allows the officer to understand the gravity of the situation.
4. The officer may or may not be familiar with the exact local laws/ordinances. If he isn't, show him your folder.
5. Take pictures.
6. Let the officer talk to the neighbor. At this point a face to face confrontation might be counter-productive.
7. Follow up with law enforcement. We were fortunate because the deputy gave us his cell phone number. Verify what types of tickets were given or charges filed. Get a copy of the incident report.
8. Talk to the officer's supervisor. If the officer was courteous and properly ticketed the offending dog owner, compliment him for the fine work. If you have been unable to get information regarding tickets or charges, ask the supervisor. If the officer blew you off, complain. Also, ask the supervisor what prosecuting agency will be handling the ticket (county prosecutor, city prosecutor, DA, etc.)
9. Talk to the prosecutor. Don't let them blow you off. This is where it can fall apart. Prosecutors just want these things to go away. Brush up on your dog laws again because you may have to educate the prosecutor. They are only human and have limited resources, so they may not be familiar with all of the statutes. If there is a statute that defines a dog that harrasses or kills domestic/animals as dangerous, tell the prosecutor that you would like that to be recognized. When the neighbor pleads guilty or when they are found guilty in court, the judge will have to put that in their findings.
10. Create a packet to send to the prosecutor. Write a letter that describes what happened. If the dog has a history of problems, put that in the letter. Let the prosecutor know that you fear the consequenses of the dog not being confined in the future. Put in a total of your financial damages with supporting documentation. Also, put in copies of the pertinent dog laws.
11. Follow up with the prosecutor. If the prosecutor is good and is willing to prosecute according to the statutes and help prevent future problems, thank him or her and follow up before the designated court date to be sure nothing has changed. If the prosecutor is blowing you off, speak to their supervisor and the supervor's supervisor if necessary. Be calm and knowledgeable about the statutes. Be prepared to be the squeaky wheel. Notify the news media if you need to, and tell the prosecutor that you are doing so. Don't be afraid of the system. You are the victim. They work for you.
12. If you are having problems with law enforcement or the prosecutor's office, don't let more than 48 hours go in between complaining phone calls. Talk to them so much that they can recognize your voice on the phone. Let them realize that you will not go away.
13. If the prosecutor is unable to request restitution as part of the sentencing, you will need to take civil action. The civil action is separate from the criminal charges. Don't talk to the neighbor in person, send them a demand letter. You letter should be civil and specify the exact amount of monetary damages and the date by which you expect to be paid.
14. If the dog owner doesn't pay the damages by the specified date, file a claim in small claims court.
Here is a copy of my letter to the prosecutor:
Jody B. November 12, 2008
Waterloo, NE 68069
City Prosecutor’s Office
Hall of Justice #2 west
17th & Farnam
Omaha, NE 68183
Re: Neighbor's Name and Citation #XXX
To Whom It May Concern:
On Thursday, October, 23, 2008 I received a phone call at approximately 11:30AM from my son. He and neighbors witnessed another neighbor’s dogs killing my chickens. The dogs in question are two Rhodesian Ridgebacks belonging to (neighbor's name). The Sheriff was called. It was assigned incident report #XXX. I immediately came home from work. When I arrived, twelve birds were dead in the yard, and one was seriously injured. My son took the injured bird to the vet. The bird (a Silver Phoenix rooster) was treated, but he died later that evening from his injuries. A total of thirteen birds died because these vicious dogs were loose and on a killing spree. Mr. V was cited for Dogs at Large and Dogs Doing Damage. I have enclosed a list and documentation of what I feel is fair compensation for my losses. I would like restitution to be part of his sentencing.
These dogs are dangerous and have been a menace in our neighborhood in the past. On previous occasions they have escaped their fence and killed and/or injured other dogs. In September I discovered one of my chickens had been killed in what looked like a dog attack. Neighbors told me that they had seen the same Rhodesians Ridgebacks running loose that day. I couldn’t prove those dogs had killed that chicken, but I believe it was a reasonable assumption that they did the killing. I did not report the incident in September to the authorities because I did not have adequate proof. I did not have a current telephone number for Mr. V, so I wrote him a letter (copy enclosed) explaining the situation in the hopes that he would take responsibility for his dogs and confine them to his yard. On other occasions, these dogs have escaped their yard and entered other yards where they have killed and/or injured other people’s dogs. Mr. V was aware that his dogs could escape their enclosure at will. He was aware that his dogs had escaped on previous occasions and killed or wounded other pets. It is only a matter of time before these dogs injure or kill a child. Their prey drive is too great, and their owner has shown extreme negligence in his lack of care in confining them.
Deputy K was the officer that responded to the call on October 23rd. He later advised me that he had reported the dogs as dangerous because of the killing of my pets. On November 3, 2008 I spoke with another officer from the Sheriff’s Department to ask what kind of oversight is in effect to ensure that the dogs are either euthanized or kept in accordance with the Nebraska dangerous dog laws. He advised me that after Mr. V's day in court, oversight will be the responsibility of the Nebraska Humane Society. I contacted the Nebraska Humane Society and was told that it was outside their jurisdiction. I hope this doesn’t mean that the people in our neighborhood will be subjected to the dangers of these animals.
Mr. V has a history of not making an adequate effort to confine his dogs. According to a prominent Rhodesian Ridgeback organization, it takes a minimum of six foot tall fencing to confine a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I have enclosed a copy of the web page. The fence in the V yard is not adequate to confine the dogs. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred in Africa to hunt lions. They are fearless and have a strong prey drive. Members of the breed are known for being able to dig under fences or easily get over them. These particular individuals have a history of escaping and killing. I believe that the animals qualify as dangerous under Nebraska State Law and should be euthanized. If they are not euthanized, I believe that Mr. V should be required to follow Nebraska State Law and have the dogs spayed/neutered, micro-chipped and when outdoors kept in a secure kennel with a top, bottom and lock. Signs should also be posted on his property warning others that dangerous dogs are on the premises. I believe that is the only way to keep the people and pets in our neighborhood safe.
Please do not let Mr. V sweet talk you into believing that the dogs are harmless and only get out because a gate was left open and that it will never happen again. That is always the story, and his dogs still roam the neighborhood. I beg you to hold him accountable to the law, pay restitution and take responsibility for his very dangerous dogs. I am afraid the dogs’ next victim will be human. These dogs need to be recognized as the dangerous animals that they are. It is very important that the state laws be upheld and these dogs euthanized or kept in accordance with the dangerous dog laws. I am sure that the V family will try to convince you that the dogs are gregarious and loving animals, but the reality is that they are a danger to the neighborhood. They may be good with their own family, but when roaming at large a vicious pack mentality takes over. I thank God that the attack on my birds happened on a Thursday, rather than a weekend. It is common for my neighbors’ grandson to play in my yard on weekends. He feeds and pets the chicken. If he had been present when the dogs attacked, he would have been in the middle of the melee and possibly injured or killed. An excited and uncontrolled large dog engaging its prey drive and making a kill is very dangerous to be near. Two dogs working as a pack is even worse. I implore you to prosecute this man and hold him accountable.
Enclosed you will find the following:
I sincerely hope that Mr. V is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I would also like the court to order that restitution be paid and to impose an order of euthanasia or dangerous animal classification for the dogs. State Law appears to very clear that dogs roaming at large and killing other domestic animals or livestock are to be classified as dangerous dogs. If these dogs are not treated as the dangerous animals that they are, I will contact the news media.
- Copies of Nebraska Dangerous Dog Laws
- A copy of a letter I previously sent to Mr. V
- A list of my damages with supporting price quotes and a copy of the vet bill
- A copy of a Rhodesian Ridgeback webpage
- Copy of the incident report
Since I do not have a lot of faith in the judicial system ordering restitution, I staryed a civil action. I mailed the neighbor a demand letter. It read as follows:
Waterloo, NE 68069
November 24, 2008
Waterloo, NE 68069
Re: Damages incurred from your dogs attacking my poultry
Dear Mr. V:
The purpose of this letter is to attempt to resolve the issue of damages arising from your dogs attacking my animals.
As you know, the incident happened on October 23, 2008 in the following manner. Your dogs left your property, entered mine, attacked and killed my birds. Thirteen birds were killed, a vet bill was incurred, I had to leave work early, a cage was damaged in the coop and a lot of feed was spilled. The information about the incident was confirmed by witnesses.
You are responsible for this incident because your dogs were not contained on your property.
As a direct result of this incident, I have incurred losses in the amount of $xxx.
In addition to my costs, I have suffered another loss that in many ways has been more hurtful. The birds were hand raised by my family and me. They were all healthy. Some were rare breeds that are expensive and difficult to obtain. Our birds have great sentimental and emotional value to my entire family. Their suffering and death has caused a great deal of pain in this house. Because you also are a pet owner, I assume that you understand the terrible ordeal that a pet owner incurs when an incident like this takes place, so I will not describe the details, although I could.
In order to avoid the time and expense of formal civil court proceedings, I suggest that we resolve the issue of restitution. You clearly are responsible for all of the losses that resulted from this incident. There is no question that my losses total $xxxxx. There also should be little doubt that my family and I have suffered greatly because of what happened. Instead of civil court proceedings, I propose that these damages be paid by you to me by December 5, 2008. I believe that this amount is less than what I am entitled to receive, but I would give up the rest if it were paid by that date.
If you intend to accept this settlement proposal, you must sign the bottom of this letter and send it back to me within one week from today. Should you need further information [or more time for payment], or if you have questions or comments, please contact me within one week from today.
BTW, I did have legal help with my letter writing. I have lots of lawyer friends. I know a couple of judges too.
**My neighbors ignored my original demand letter. I took them to small claims court. They made fools of themselves in front of the judge. I won easily. I think that my neighbors were afraid that I would have the Sheriff or the Constable seize property to cover the debt. They paid. The husband also was taken to criminal court. He hired a lawyer to help him and changed his plea from not-guilty to no-contest. He was fined and now has a record. He did try making a scene in the courthouse lobby, but that was stopped by a police officer.
I haven't seen the dogs in my yard since, but the neighbors still drive by and glare. Whenever they start doing that, my husband and I load up the pistols and target practice in the backyard. They can hear it, and they stop driving back and forth in front of the house. I get along quite well with the rest of my neighbors, and these people live just far enough away to not burden me. They also don't bother me because I am way scarier than they are.