{Take Action Tuesday} Your Community

Last week’s post was more, how do I put this, controversial than I anticipated it would be.  I really can’t imagine anyone will find fault in today’s topic though!  I read through countless articles and petitions over the past week trying to decide what I wanted this week’s post to be about, but after Sunday afternoon, I knew what I wanted to focus on: reaching out to your community.  It’s all about how you can get involved in your community.

Spunky Harley is the Queen of the kennel and she knows it!

Spunky Harley is the Queen of the kennel and she knows it!

It is incredibly easy for one person to make a difference.  My “Take Action” challenge this week is to find one simple way to do something for homeless or needy animals in your community.  Perhaps the simplest way would be to donate money.  I highly, highly recommend looking for a local rescue.  If you don’t know of one, try googling “(name of your city) dog rescue”.  Have a favorite breed?  Search for “(favorite breed) rescue”.  You want to make sure that it is a 501(c)3 because that means they are non-profit, and operate off of donations, with no money going to fund political ventures like lobbying.  Take a few minutes and look over their site.  Often times they will even have a “wish list” of some sort with items that they are in need of.  Who knows, they might just be desperate for blankets and you happen to have quite a few extras that are crowding your hall closet.  You could clean out your closet, make a needed donation, and not even spend a penny!

Daddy

Daddy is quite possibly one of the most eager-to-please dogs I have ever met!

Speaking of blankets, did you know that most Animal Controls are operated on extremely limited funds?  Some only have enough money in the budget for the salaries of officers, utilities, and euthanasia.  You know what’s missing from that list?  Food, toys, veterinary care, and even blankets for cold winter nights.  No, not all are that bad, but some are and they might just be in your back yard (this was true for me, and let me tell you, it was quite a shock when I learned it.)  Try googling “(name of your city) animal control”.  Look for the budget, it’s public record, and you might just be surprised at what you find.  They will appreciate your old blankets.  Or maybe you plan to get your dog a new bed for Christmas?  Give them your old one!  Notice a sale on dog food at your grocery store?  Pick up a bag or two.

Elliot is truly the complete package: smart, handsome, eager to please!

Elliot is truly the complete package: smart, handsome, eager to please!

Another great way to help at Animal Control’s is to volunteer your time, just to do something as simple as walk the dogs.  Did you know that often times the only way the dogs get out of their kennel is if volunteers come and let them out?  It’s a sad reality, but most of the time these places have employees that are overworked.  Simply walking the dogs is sometimes a luxury that they don’t have time to for.  And it’s the dogs that really suffer in these situations.  Imagine the pent up energy and stress that many dogs could be relieved of simply by getting them out into the fresh air and a little exercise.  While you are walking them, maybe practice a few basic commands like “sit”.  Knowing a few tricks, not to mention being calmer and less stressed, is PROVEN to make dogs SIGNIFICANTLY more adoptable!

Joffy

Joffy is something else. SO athletic and smart. If I could take one home, it would’ve been this stud.

Planning to stay home for the holidays?  Been considering the idea of fostering but just not sure if you’re ready for that commitment?  Reach out to the local rescue that you just found and offer to temporary foster for them.  What does that mean?  Often times foster families travel for the holidays and the rescue needs a family to take the dog from anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks while the normal foster is traveling.  The beauty of this is that while fostering is temporary in the sense that the dog will only be with you until it is adopted, there really is no way to know exactly how long that will take.  By “temp” fostering, you will actually know exactly how long you will have the dog!  Plus, it’s is a great way to see if you are actually up for fostering or not.  If you don’t enjoy it, it’s just a few days out of your life, but who knows?  It might inspire you to become a regular foster and save countless lives!

Radar

Little Mr. Radar is 100% goofiness!

       Heard of a friend, coworker, or member of your church that might be down on their luck?  Maybe it’s your cousin’s-hairdresser’s-mailman’s-sister.  Instead of just gossiping over the water cooler, figure out how to get in touch with this person and offer to help.  It might take nothing more than a couple of bags of dog food, some flea preventative, and help finding a veterinary clinic to keep a family intact and a dog out of a shelter.  Can’t afford to buy these things yourself but still want to help this person?  Reach out to that rescue that you found and see if they would be willing to help you help that person.  Seriously.  It is SO much easier to help a family that already loves their dog keep it safely in their home rather than hope to find that dog a new home after the family has turned the dog over to a shelter where it can suffer emotional trauma.

Atlas

Atlas is mellow and easy to please. Just needs a little love and he’s happy!

None of those sounding up your alley?  What about contacting that rescue and asking for a printable version of their foster brochure to pass out at work or leave on the counter at your local coffee shop?  Maybe they have printable flyers you could hang at your favorite pet store.  What about asking for a magnet to put on your cars thus rendering yourself a mobile advertisement?

Joffy

I dare you to look into Joffy’s eyes and not fall in love.

Still nothing jumping out at you?  How about the all-time easiest way ever to help out: hit the share button!  If you live in the northern part of Florida, you could share this post which is full of adoptable dogs.  Share a picture from the Facebook page of the local rescue you found.  But please, keep try to keep it local.  Everyone wants to share that picture of a terribly sad dog located on the opposite side of the United States, but think about it, if you are seeing it, how many other people have already seen it as well?  This is called “going viral”.  Sure, it’s fantastic for that dog but lots of times by the time you have seen that picture, the dog has already been adopted!  I’m not saying never to do it, just keep in mind that there are so many dogs in need that never make it to the lime light because their story just doesn’t have the drama to “go viral”.  This certainly doesn’t make them any less deserving though, does it?  Remember, sharing is caring (not to mention quick, easy, and free!)  Take action!

If any of these gorgeous dogs caught your eye, please email me at morganrivera518(at)gmail(dot)com.  They would like nothing more than a home of their very own for the holidays! 

Preaching to the Choir

Forgive me in advance if I am not able to completely tie together the two ideas that are bouncing around my head in a coherent way that anyone other than myself can actually follow and understand.

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The always adorable (and adoptable!) Nala.

If you read my post yesterday, you know it was about on vs. off-leash dogs and liability.  Bren from Pibbles & Me commented and basically said despite leash laws, she fears that if something ever happened and her dog (while appropriately leashed) bit a dog that was off-leash, she would still be held liable because of the fact that he dog is a “bully” breed and asked for my opinion on that.  My response was:  I absolutely understand and share your fear. I don’t know where you live, so this is a general response, but normally if there were a dog bite and the “victim” (owner of unleashed dog) pursued you, it would go to a judge and/or jury to determine liability. In a perfect world, since your dog was leashed and following the law, they would find no damages against you. In the imperfect world we live in, it’s scary to say, but I think it would just come down to the individuals. We unfortunately know the kind of prejudice that is out there regarding our beloved “bullies” and it’s entirely possible that some or all of the fault could be assigned to you. Obviously this is sh!tty and I only hope and pray none of us ever find ourselves in this situation. In the mean time, I think the best thing we can do is continue trying to raise awareness about how GOOD our “bullies” are in hopes that if ever we found ourselves in front of a jury, the jury would be comprised of fellow “bully” lovers!

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How sad is it that any dog owner ever has to harbor this fear?  This fear that their dog, because of nothing more than his appearance, will be discriminated against whether or not they actually do something wrong.  It’s rare, but I have on occasion taken Maggie to the dog park because I believe that socialization (though it’s normally done in a very structured manner) is important for her.  It didn’t matter what she was doing, I was guaranteed to get at least one dirty look while we were there.  Sure, she plays a little rough sometimes, but so do 95% of all the other dogs there.  The difference is, she has a big blocky head, with a mouth big enough fit a small car in, and ripped muscles.  She’s not fluffy and (to some) friendly looking so when she pounces on a dog, the same way that adorable Lab mix just did, some people assume she must going in for the kill.

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The ONLY acceptable way to wear fur: giving your pooch a much needed break from a long walk.

So how do we fix this?  In my opinion, we do what I said in my response to Bren and continue trying to raise positive awareness about “bully” breeds and do everything we can to show them in a positive light.  Why?  Because I don’t know of a better way to change  minds than this.  But here is my problem:  I feel like I am preaching to the choir.  I can’t be certain, but I am pretty sure that my followers are already “bully” lovers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s awesome and certainly a community I am proud to be part of, but their minds don’t need to be changed.  I started Tallahassee WalkABulls (photos from our most recent walk throughout this post) to mainly help socialize dogs in a safe way, but also to show off “bully breeds” in a positive manner.  Sure, we occasionally turn a few heads, but for the most part we walk in rural areas and don’t really draw much attention to ourselves.  Plus, as you can see, some walks we have less “bullies” than anything else in attendance.  No complaints here though, I love me some mutts 🙂

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So I’m looking for suggestions.  How do we reach outside of our little circle and touch some people who’s minds really do need to be changed?  How do we preach beyond the choir?

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Look at Maggie! Happily letting a complete stranger walk her!

{Legal Issue} Off Leash Dogs

Thank you so much to everyone that contributed a question/suggestion for a legal topic for Rich and I to research.  I am excited to start tackling the issues!  We didn’t quite get as much as I was expecting, so we will “round up” a little and I’ll buy a jumbo bag of food from Costco next time we are there for donation.  Thank you all again!

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My plan is to address the topics in the order we received them, with one exception: today’s topic.  With warm weather upon on us, people and their pets are out en mass, and the likelihood increases for this type of situation to arise.  A reader posed the question:  What happens if I am walking my dog, on a leash, through our neighborhood and an off-leash dog comes up and causes my dog to bite it?  She also wanted to know if it is appropriate to remind the owner of the dog about leash laws.

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Does this happen to anyone else?

Before we address the question, it’s time for us to put in a boring disclaimer: please remember that Rich is not an attorney, but just a law student (for the next couple of months). Also, these posts should not be taken as legal advice, but just a general exploration of the issues that the post suggestions present. If you have an actual legal problem with your animal you should consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

So, to start with the easier of the two questions: YES, you absolutely should remind people of leash laws anytime you see them with an off-leash dog.  I know that I have been guilty of having my dogs off-leash at times in the past and it always annoyed me when someone would yell, “Your dog is supposed to be on a leash!”  But why?  My dogs are friendly!  Now, “My dog is friendly!” is one of my biggest pet peeve statements.  That’s good for you, but maybe the dog on the leash isn’t.  The fact is, not all dogs are accepting of other dogs greeting them (often exasperated by being on a leash), and you should never assume otherwise.  The odds are, the owner of the off-leash dog has no ill intentions and simply is unaware of the issue, like I used to be.  I would recommend keeping things light and friendly, but also trying to kindly make them aware of why leash laws are in place.  Maybe something like, “Hey neighbor!  I noticed your cute little ____ is running around without a leash.  My dog is friendly too, but there are some dogs who aren’t so friendly so it’s a good idea to just abide by the law which states dogs must be leashed.  You know, better safe than sorry!”

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Now back to the main question.  Generally speaking if an unleashed dog provokes a dog that is being walked on a leash and the leashed dog snaps and attacks the unleashed dog, then the owner of the leashed dog should not have too much of a problem on their hands. This is due to one of two legal defenses, either contributory negligence, or assumption of the risk. Under contributory negligence a jury would apportion the liability, and thus the damages, between the two parties based on how their actions contributed to the bite. For assumption of the risk, the owner of the unleashed dog has assumed the risk of his or her dog getting attacked, by allowing it to roam free.  Additionally, where a state has enacted a statute to provide for owner-liability for dog attacks, it may have also enacted other statutory defenses to liability.

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Specifically in Florida there is a statute that provides for strict liability for the owner of a dog that attacks a domestic animal or person. Additionally there is a leash law in Leon County that requires dogs to be kept on a leash when they are off of their property. Florida courts have said that since it is a statutory action for damage caused by a dog attack, a defense of contributory negligence cannot be maintained in Florida. There are also very limited statutory defenses that have been enacted by the Florida lawmakers. However, Florida courts have decided that assumption of the risk and provocation are defenses that can be maintained under the strict liability statute. Thus a court would allow evidence to be brought forward that the owner of the unleashed dog assumed the risk that an attack would occur, and that the unleashed dog provoked the leashed dog into attacking. Ultimately it would be up to the jury to determine if the provocation was sufficient enough to cause the attack.

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Nevertheless, all of this analysis may be unnecessary though, because if there is an attack that just injures another dog, the possible damages available, which are likely only the medical bills of the injured dog, would not be enough to justify court costs and legal fees to maintain a lawsuit.

So kids, play it safe and keep your dog on a leash!  Questions?  Hit me with your best shot.

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