The Neighborhood is Going to the Dogs

A new (and apparently growing) problem in Dunn County is dogs roaming our unincorporated areas and annoying property owners.
We’re not talking about a canine that’s threatening humans or, about to attack a companion animal or livestock.
The law is very clear on the right to protect life and property. These are complaints about annoying dogs who are roaming and, being a pest.

By Pat Merriman
Just know that regardless of what you’ve been told, Dunn County has no police powers except where the Century Code grants it. The law on roaming pets?
If you live inside an incorporated city, there are probably leash laws that prohibit letting a dog poop on the property of, or annoy, your neighbor. So, if a complaint to the pet owner ain’t working, call the local police.
Owners are forgetting that pets come with responsibilities—to both the animal and your neighbors. NOT letting the animal bark all night, wander the neighborhood, chase cars, intimidate children or, otherwise, annoy. It’s common courtesy.
And, invariably, when a neighbor calls my office, they DID try to talk to the owner with no luck.
Now, they want John Law to take care of the problem. When did pet owners turn selfish? Sometime after I grew up in the 1970’s.
In Chapter 42-03 of the Century Code, “Dogs as Public Nuisances”, the dog must, first, “habitually molest a person traveling peaceably on a public road/street” for “this law” to apply. Not just poop on your lawn.
Second, the victim MUST file a written CIVIL petition in District Court. It must include the dog’s description and, if known, its (and its owner’s) name(s) and, allege that the canine is a “public nuisance” citing specific facts.
Then, the court notifies the pet owner to respond and, also tells them that he/she “shall take the necessary action to prevent the dog from any further violations”. It takes a second incident, filed with the court (can be the same victim) before the owner is summoned before the court itself for a hearing.
Third, if the name of the dog’s owner is unknown, 10-days’ notice has to be published in the local newspaper.
At any hearing, evidence is heard and, if the judge finds the animal to be a public nuisance, he/she must issue an order for a peace officer to kill and bury the dog ASAP.
Who pays for all this? The victim unless the dog’s owner is known. Then, the costs are entered against the owner. When I’m forced to tell folks that their best bet is to contact an attorney, they balk—”Well, I’m just going to shoot the thing.” Two problems—that could be a crime and, the animal abuse folks will get worked up.
Sections 36-21-10 thru 36-21-11 of the Century Code deal with dog-killing without a court order. And, it is only authorized when one first sees the dog “worrying livestock or poultry”; or, “discovers evidence that the dog recently killed or chased sheep”.
Then, absolute immunity from any liability attaches and, the dog’s owner is liable for “all resulting damages.”
Of course, the inevitable (usually anonymous) complaint about the killing will try to invoke the Century Code’s Chapter 36-21.2—”animal abuse” or “cruelty” (incarceration for up to 5 years) claiming that physical injury to, or killing, an animal is a crime.
And, although the humane, swift destruction of a dog (under the lawful conditions cited earlier) is not a crime, that won’t stop the complaints or your ostracism by those who disagree. A simpler solution?
Dog owners just be courteous and, please, control your pets!

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