Fight on a shared fence line...

by Father of Canines
(Jacksonville, FL)

I live in a rental house with a rent-to-own agreement. It has a very large yard with a very old fence. In the time I have lived there I got myself 3 Alaskan Malamute mix puppies that are now at the one year mark.

My neighbors behind me have a pair of miniature dobermans, 1 which has a severe "Napoleon complex," which snarls and barks at anything that gets close to it. Our shared fence has many rotted wood panels that were easy for my puppies to pull off or crack at a few spots in their desire to explore and play with the dogs behind us, who were less than enthusiastic.

Every broken panel on my side of the fence was immediately repaired or replaced by myself, while much less was done on the other side. I offered to buy the new panels for my neighbors and even put them in myself so they wouldn't have to do the work. Neither offer was taken seriously and the gaps were left unclosed.

I reinforced my side with rabbit and chicken wire fencing to keep my dogs from getting through the gaps which, as they grew, became too small to fit through anyway.

As time passed on, the dogs on both sides would often meet at the gaps (which were unable to be passed through), but would still result in a bunch of angry barking and snarling from the miniature dobermans. Some growling and whimpering from my side, but virtually no barking ever came out of my Malamutes.

Finally it all came to a head last week when as always, the dogs on both sides of the fence met with the usual barking and snapping from the mini D's on one side, and the usual minimal growling or whimpering from my side. I went inside to use the restroom for a second and came back out to hear frantic yelling from the neighbors.

I called mine away from the fence, and received a message from my other neighbor saying there seems to have been a bite involved. Later that night I saw a flashlight and a shadow at the gap, seeming to reach to my side. A few minutes later, my neighbor behind me shows up with a piece of his dog's paw that one of my 3 had bitten off.

He could not identify which one it had been but alleged that my dog pushed his nose through the hole and attacked his dog. I know with the wiring in place, this is not possible.

The only way mine could have bitten with enough force to remove the tip of a mini Doberman's paw is if that paw was fully through the fence and on my side of the yard. The facts are simple, if the neighbor took my offer to replace the broken or missing panels, there is no way his little dog's paw could have gotten bit.

Animal control checked my records, which are completely up to date, with all vaccinations and rabies shots complete. Should I be concerned? Can my neighbor sue me? Who is liable in this situation? Thank you for any perspective you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Fight on a shared fence line...":

Father of Canines (Jacksonville, FL):

Yes, your neighbor can sue you. Whether or not your neighbor will prevail will depend on if he can prove your dog maimed his dog. The fact that you offered to mend the fence, or provide appropriate materials is really irrelevant. What it comes down to is whether or not your dog maimed your neighbor’s dog.

If your neighbor is not able to produce evidence proving your dog bit his dog, then even if your neighbor is convinced the maiming took place, it will be nearly impossible to prove their case. Proving the case will require more than their opinion.

It will take camera surveillance showing the attack, witness testimony showing the same, or other documentation making clear the attack took place.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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