Visitor Question

Defamatory remarks made on Facebook after dog attack…

Submitted By: Gabe (Missouri)

We let our lab / shepherd mix out into our fenced back yard the other day.

Our neighbor two houses down let his Chihuahua out. My wife looked out and saw our dog outside of our fence.

This is the first time it has ever left the yard. I called her inside the house from the front yard and returned to doing housework.

The neighbor then walked over with his dog in his hands and the first remark out of his mouth is “Next time I see that dog I’m going to shoot it.” At this point I asked him what happened. He proceeded to tell me my dog attacked his dog. I was shocked, as our dog lives right next to two small dogs who she loves to run up and down the fence and play with.

I said I’m so sorry, but he was irate and was not there to listen but to threaten. He said to me “Well you better call the police because when I get back I’m going to bring my gun over and kill that dog.”

Being that I don’t know him beyond the neighborly relationship, and seeing that my wife is pregnant, I had no choice but to take his threat seriously and thus called the authorities.

He then proceeded to involve our community by posting nonfactual allegations on our neighborhood Facebook page while he was at the vet. Stating “pray it doesn’t kill your dog or child next” and claiming it will jumper over the fence and kill something on the street. He identified our exact house to everyone calling us “negligent” and “irresponsible” dog owners.

We have done everything required by law thus far to contain our dog and this was the first time our dog had left confinement. This is also the first time our dog has allegedly attacked anything. However, his dog is unleashed and unconstrained and has ran to our fence barking and potentially provoking our dog before.

We have been taking screen shots of his derogatory statements and have refrained from posting back or telling the community the threats he made.

We also have a written message from him stating his dog was off leash and unconfined, and saying that since it was a six pound dog that was acceptable.

I have no proof his dog was at our fence provoking our dog, nor does he have proof the attack occurred on his property and not the neighbor’s between us, since his dog is unconfined.

His dog returned home from the vet and is expected to make a full recovery. We had no problem settling this civilly and paying for vet bills.

But due to his threats and defaming nonfactual claims he has made to our community, we find ourselves wondering where to go from here? Can we take legal action against his defamatory remarks on Facebook? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Gabe,

The legal definition of defamation can be summarized as an act of communication to one or more third parties, which causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, reduced in status in the community, or causes a loss of employment status or earnings, or otherwise causes a serious damage of reputation.

Defamation can be by slander (the spoken word) and libel (the written word).

Claims by the neighbor that you were “negligent” and “irresponsible” dog owners do not rise to the legal elements required to prove defamation. Unfortunately, defamation does not extend to false, malicious, or unwarranted statements about animals.

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

Best of luck,

Published: March 7, 2015

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