One of my favorite television shows currently is A&E’s “Live PD,” hosted by attorney Dan Abrams, who also just happens to be the chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News.
Currently, the show follows 12 law enforcement agencies around the country in near real time with more than 100 cameras. It is a revealing look into the day-to-day routine of law enforcement officers.
Last week’s episode had a dustup between two neighbors that reflects any number of calls I’ve gotten at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine over the years. The location was Nye County, Nev. Two adjoining yards, two dogs, and one substandard fence made with wire featuring spaces four-by-four inches in size led to the dispute.
Law enforcement got involved when the animal control officer could not reason with the parties involved.
The facts of the case appeared to be Dog A and Dog B were barking at each other and running up and down a common fence line. Typically, one or both dogs will fatigue after a while and stop running, but the barking keeps up. Often the verbal combatants will tire of the nonsense and go back to protecting their respective castles.
In this case though, the smaller of the two dogs stuck his snout through the wire and barked and bared teeth at the bigger pooch. The bigger dog responded by latching onto a body part and drawing blood. The crazy video in the aftermath made it look like an ear may have been damaged.
The couple owning the smaller dog were furious and irreconcilable. The owner of the bigger dog was never seen on the broadcast. Nye County Sheriff’s deputies were called because the animal control officer rightly feared the situation was deteriorating and threats of violence were being made.
The little dog’s human momma wanted an arrest made. But alas, this was a civil matter and not a criminal one. Sad how few people realize there are these two distinct court systems in our society.
This made momma madder. She then became fixated on interrupting the deputy as he tried to explain with, “Yeah, but what if this was my child?” over and over and over again. She would not let the deputy explain two things. This dog is not your child and second, if a human child was involved, then it would probably be a crime.
She was having no part of it to the point that the deputy had to simply order her and her significant other to stop yelling and disturbing the peace or face arrest. He then ordered them to leave the yard and enter their home.
The easiest way to think about this is to consider me parking my car on the driveway and not setting the brakes. I go inside to get a soda and the car rolls down the driveway, hitting someone else’s car parked legally in the street. My property therefore damaged your property. It is a civil matter. Money likely needs to change hands or people will have to use small claims court.
It does not matter if your 10 year-old pickup “could have been a Bentley,” no matter how many times you scream it at a police officer investigating the accident. Or, “What if it had been a propane truck that blew up and killed us all?” It wasn’t, so it doesn’t matter. Settle.
Lastly, I love to see people who throw around lawsuits like chucking cow pies at one another when they know so very little about the process. Lawsuits are not lottery tickets.
Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email firstname.lastname@example.org.