Thursday, April 13, 2006

Jumping the Fence

You may have seen this picture, which displays Russell's excellent jumping ability. Our neighbor says it's like his legs are springs, and he's never seen a dog jump as high as Russell can. While it's impressive and I'm proud of this ability, it does have its downside.

Jumping on a tree, he can get his forelegs seven feet in the air. Without a tree to propel him, he can still jump about five feet off the ground. Our fence in the backyard is about three and a half to four feet high.

I tried punishing him when he jumps the fence. That may have been a mistake, because once he jumps it, now he's reluctant to go back. On Tuesday, I had just woken up when I let the dogs outside. Before I could get any socks or shoes on, he decided he would run around the neighborhood. I followed him in circles, barefoot, for at least 20 minutes.

And, of course, somebody complained. Like he was really hurting anything. But we got a note from animal control telling us about the rule that you can't "let" your dogs run free. So we got him a leash, and that seems to be working.

As a side note, I should point out that when I make the wife mad, I imagine Russell saying "You really jumped the fence now, dad."

Anyway, of course when I read the note from animal control, I began (naturally) to think of what legal arguments I could make to fight such a citation. (I'm totally into the legal mindset now.) My first argument: I didn't "let" him do anything. "Let" implies intentional allowance of a thing. I didn't intentionally "let" him run free--he jumped the fence.

My next argument: we have a fence. That should be considered adequate per se at least absent reason to believe that the dog is dangerous.


  1. An interesting bit of Michigan trivia: We don't have hardly any strict liability in Michigan at all, except, you guessed it, for dogs. If your dog gets out and does something wrong, you are strictly liable in most Michigan communities. These laws date back to the "olden" days when failing to control animals was a much bigger problem than it is now. Funny, eh?

  2. I'm not sure on statistics here, but don't most states have strict liability for dogs (and possibly all animals)?

    Not that I'd worry. The most damage Russell would do is kill someone's small mammal (maybe--domestic prey doesn't have the same appeal) or perhaps dig a hole.