Inquiry To Dr. Polsky
My wife and I recently purchased an investment house to rent in Avondale, Arizona, and have discovered afterward that the next door neighbor has two very aggressive boxers who jump up and hang on to the 6′ block fence barking, growling and snarling at me and prospective renters whenever we go into my back yard. The dogs are able to hang on for several long seconds more than chest high. It seems a little bit more exertion on the dog’s part could propel them up and over, and consequently, no one will rent this house.
My question is, is there anything I can do besides sell the house at a loss? Anything perhaps added to the fence that can prevent the dogs from getting over, and making prospective renters feel safer. I tell prospective renters about the dogs, and feel if they have children that could be hurt, this is not the property for them. My wife and I could be financially ruined if this situation continues. Perhaps you know of a specific lawyer in Arizona that could help, as well.
Response From Dr. Polsky
Boxers are certainly muscular dogs and in certain circumstances they can become highly territorial. Given this, I can well appreciate how a Boxer might have the ability, strength and aggressive propensities to jump high enough and then hang on to the top of a 6 ft. block wall for the purpose of locating a target to attack.
Considering that there are two dogs and considering their likely temperamental features, from what you described, this certainly presents a liability risks for the landlord of potential renters. It probably also presents liability issues for the owner of the dogs or the property owner of the location where the dogs reside. In my opinion this is dangerous condition. Steps should be taken to alleviate this danger.
Recently I just finished consulting on a dog bite case in Los Angeles where a similar situation existed. In this case, the dogs involved were adult, male pit bulls, however. The incident in questioned happened when one of these pit bull dogs leaped over a six-foot block wall and grabbed an 11 y.o boy who was probably leaning up against a wall. This pit bull dog, who had a history of aggression near this wall towards children playing on the other side, could well have jumped high enough so that it was able to hang onto the top of the wall thereby allowing it position itself so that it could to grab the child by the shoulder. In fact, this pit bull not only attached itself to the child’s shoulder but it then pulled the child over the wall into the yard where it lived. After this happened, it was mauled not only this pit bull but also by a another male pit bull who resided in the same yard. Needless to say this boy was severely mauled. He was lucky to survive. He was rescued by his his mother and another adult who luckily heard the noise of the attack. They quickly responded and jumped into the adjacent yard where the boy was yanked and pulled the child to safety. During the rescue these adults were also attacked by the dogs.
This case settled very favorably for the plaintiff. In my opinion, based on the particulars in this case, the defense argument this case was weak: namely, the dog did not have the ability to scale the wall to pull the child over. Instead, they felt the child may have been sitting on top of the wall rather than leaning against it, thereby provoking the dog to attack.
If I were you, I would talk to people at animal control to see if they could do something effective to convince the dog owner or owner of the property where the dogs reside that steps need to taken immediately to alleviate the situation. If the situation remains as is, then obviously you have the responsibility of informing prospective tenants of the danger that exists.