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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Here is what has happened so far:

A little background info to help:

-We live on a shared private road (everyone in our housing community "owns" the private road together).
-We have two German Shepherds.
-We have a professionally licensed installed Invisible Fence. Dogs were professionally trained on it, never run it, and along combined with sound traditional fencing, where the invisible fence does not go, surrounds our entire 5 acres insuring there are no gaps for the dogs to get around the invisible fence.

*Clarification: due to some confusion. We do not have physical perimeter fencing in addition to the Invisible Fence. Traditional barrier fencing is only to fill in the gaps close to the house where the Invisible Fence is not installed. Sorry for the confusion

A neighbor walking with her dog (off leash) filed a complaint with animal control because her dog entered our property and was mauled by one of our dogs. In the report, the neighbor stated that her dog was NOT on a leash and was attacked on OUR property, but she wants us to pay her vet bill.

AC contacted us saying we have nothing to worry about because the report shows the neighbor at fault.

BUT

Today we get a note on our door from our neighbor's husband threatening to take us to court if we don't pay their vet bill. We left a message with animal control to let them know what was going on.

What should we do? We have our animals confined to our property. They are not neglected or abused or ill tempered. The letter included the cliche "What if it was a child?" statement and was written in a threatening bully-ish tone.

Can anyone point me to laws for this sort of thing so I may be better informed of the technicalities should this actually go to court?

Any and all advice would be much appreciated! Thanks for reading and I will update this with any further developments :)

Justin-
 

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My advice is to talk to a LAWYER. I doubt many here could advise you in a way that would hold up in court.
 

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This is a legal issue and laws will vary tremendously depending on where you reside.

In a very general sense, anyone can sue anyone for any reason at any time. There may not be any basis for it, but you will still go to some expense and trouble in defending yourselves.

You may want to consult your homeowner insurance carrier.
 

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Usually you are responsible for damage that your dogs cause, but the fact that the other dog was off leash and on your property muddies the waters and whether you actually are legally liable in this case is a question for a lawyer in your area.

Having said that... Anyone can sue anyone for any reason (I could sue you for wearing a blue shirt if I wanted to) but IMO most people who threaten to sue are either bullying or bluffing. They are hoping the mere threat of a lawsuit will scare you into paying them. They are either going to sue you or not, I don't see any reason to pay them over the threat of a lawsuit unless it turns out (after speaking to a lawyer) that you actually are legally responsible. If so, I might offer to pay half their bills first and see if they will take that.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
I live in Washington State.

I understand the advice I get here is not legally binding but I wanted to get some opinions and or someone elses personal experience. Just a general idea of what to expect. I know anyone can sue anyone .I just don't want our dog being euthanize as a result of someone else's negligence. I've never had to deal with this before. I know I may be dramatizing a theoretical outcome but crazy stuff happens (and wins) in court.
 

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The problem is.... Laws Vary by State.

For example in Florida what your dog does to an uninvited person or animal behind your fence or inside your home is protected by a castle doctrine.

But at the same time, in Florida underground fences are not considerered fencing or secure. There must be a physical barrier.
 

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I would think if there is a leash law and they broke the law, then you would not be responsible. Animal Control already told you you aren't at fault, maybe go back to them and find out about the leash laws in your area..Its a gray line, because if the property is jointly owned and its private then, they have the right to walk the dog on the property off leash..this would be a real fine line. The other issue is that the dog entered your back yard--how did it get in your back yard with a traditional fence? I was at a off leash dog park one time and a Rott mauled my golden retriever puppy and they did pay the vet bills, but I don't know if they were legally bound to do so, because we entered the area with the knowledge that anything can happen. I was lucky and so was my puppy. You could also offer to pay for half of the bills(if your feeling any guilt) as long as it doesn't and you don't acknowledge fault and a call to a lawyer would be in order for that one.
 

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Prior to this, have you generally been on good terms with these neighbors? If so, at least a friendly hey how you doing relationship, I'd be the mature one and go try to speak to them as adults rather than to leave a possibly childish-sounding note on your door. What if it was a child? Um, well...for one, if it were, would they have let their child wander the neighborhood unsupervised? Perhaps a simple, adult conversation of "I'm sorry for your troubles and expenses, but my dogs are contained on my property with a fence, invisible fence, etc etc etc training etc etc never seen running loose or aggressive etc etc and your dog was off-leash and unsupervised and on MY property." Maybe you find a way to name-drop animal control and their "more" legal/professional opinion on the matter. Maybe they wise up and mature a bit. Maybe not. If it gets to the point that you truly believe they'll sue, or their lawyer contacts you, go straight to find one of your own. Even if it costs you a few hours with of legal fees just to avoid a full-blown lawsuit, it'd likely be worth it if they take it that far.
 

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The problem is.... Laws Vary by State.

For example in Florida what your dog does to an uninvited person or animal behind your fence or inside your home is protected by a castle doctrine.
and this is why I love Florida...

back on topic, how do we know her dog didn't attack your dog and instigated the whole thing? maybe she owes you some money for vet bills? and what about her rabies and immunization documents? how does she know it was your dog, and not another neighbors dog, also off leash, in your yard when no one was home?

If either you or your parents work at a large company, check with EAP, they may have free legal counsel. Then go from there.

Whoever said they are bluffing is probably right. At most, this is small claims court, and I don't think they'll get far... drag them on Judge Judy, she'll fix 'em up good!
 

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In most states if your dogs are confined to your yard and their dog is loose and enters your property, whatever happens to their dog is completely on them (atleast in all the places I've been too...and I've been to a lot of places!). Problem is your city's definition of confinement. I honestly don't know if an invisible fencing unit would be considered confinement by law, though if Animal Control knows the full story and says that you have nothing to worry about, then I wouldn't worry. Whatever the case, I'd look for a lawyer who can give you a definite answer.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
...The other issue is that the dog entered your back yard--how did it get in your back yard with a traditional fence?
Our house is pretty dead center on a 5 acre plot. Our yard goes all around our house. The dog entered our property in front of our house from the street. Our dogs have access to most of the 5 acres with the exception of the driveway so they don't accidentally get hit by cars coming and going (we work at all hours). The attack supposedly happened at the "edge" of our property...but the invisible fence is a solid 40 feet from the edge of our property and the street she was walking her dog on. Not to mention the dog would have to cross a ditch, a horse fence and a tree line just to get to our dogs
 

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Personally I would send them a copy of the law, and assuming it states that if your dog is on your property and another dog comes on your property and is hurt, the trespassing dog is at fault, I'd include the law, and a note telling them, if they want to sue, have at it. And you'll countersue for trespassing, and court costs.
 

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The letter included the cliche "What if it was a child?"
Well, if a parent isn't going to teach their child not to trespass and respect people's property, that sure will, won't it?
 

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Personally I would send them a copy of the law, and assuming it states that if your dog is on your property and another dog comes on your property and is hurt, the trespassing dog is at fault, I'd include the law, and a note telling them, if they want to sue, have at it. And you'll countersue for trespassing, and court costs.
I like this. Bottom line is she was trespassing well into your property line. Look up your local laws and send them a list of each law they were breaking.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Personally I would send them a copy of the law, and assuming it states that if your dog is on your property and another dog comes on your property and is hurt, the trespassing dog is at fault, I'd include the law, and a note telling them, if they want to sue, have at it. And you'll countersue for trespassing, and court costs.
I want to avoid this sort of issue in the first place. I don't want to counter sue anyone. It's not in our nature. Plus, you can't pick your neighbors and we are not moving so we have to live with whoever is in our neighborhood for ??? amount of time.

And we're definitely not the type of people who like to say "serves you right!" because it is sad and unfortunately when any animals or children (regardless of owner negligence) falls victim to an attack or any kind, but it IS NOT OUR FAULT. We recuse and foster animals for crying out loud! ...Sorry, got on a soap box for a second..

And clarification on our "traditional fencing" wherever the Invisible Fence doesn't reach, there is a traditional chain link fence in place with no gaps. Our animals are fully contained.
 
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