My neighbor's dog is a cat killer!
October 28, 2004 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Last night I watched my neighbor's dog kill a cat. [more inside - may be disturbing to cat lovers].

It took place in my neighbor's yard - I'm on the 2nd floor and can see over the fence. In my groggy, half-asleep state I did lean out the window and try to stop it, but I wasn't able to.

The neighbor appears to be out of town. I assume he's probably not liable for what happens to anyone else's cat if the cat is inside his own yard. But does he have any obligation to the cat's owner?

The dog is walking around with the dead cat in its mouth today. Is there anything I should do, like call animal control to remove the body? I'm also thinking of putting up flyers in the neighborhood, with a description of the cat and what happened, so the owner can be notified. Advice?
posted by scarabic to Pets & Animals (74 answers total)
Wow, that's incredibly sad.

First, I'd let the dog-owner know what happened. Then, I would give them a day to fess up when your cat-owning neighbor gets back. The next day I'd go and offer your sympathy to the cat-neighbor. If they weren't told what happened, it should be pretty obvious on their face.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2004

Yeah, I want to talk to the dog owner right away. He's just not answering his doorbell. I ran over there in my pajamas and knocked while it was going on. The fact that he wasn't home in the middle of the night is what leads me to believe he's out of town. I don't actually know who the cat owner is.
posted by scarabic at 12:31 PM on October 28, 2004

at common law, if your livestock gets loose and creates property loss on someone else's property, the live stock owner is liable for any damages the beast might have done.
This is the ancient grandfather of strick liability tort law.

If it happened within the dog owner's property lines, its just a damn shame, and nothing more.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:35 PM on October 28, 2004

I'd report it to the proper authorities in your area. Dogs who kill cats are nothing to let sleep. The dog's owner is fully responsible for the actions of his or her dog, period. If they are out of town and the dog is roaming the yard freely, I'd call that negligence. It shouldn't matter that the cat was in the nieghbors yard, it's not like the dog can plead self-defense. A properly trained and cared for dog should never be permited to kill a cat or any other animal.

For the record I am a cat owner, though not adverse to dogs. If someone's dog killed my cat I would prosecute in criminal or civil court to the fullest extent of the law.

On preview: I can see why you'd want to talk to the dog's owner first, but if you are unable to contact him or her, you should go to the next step. Like I said, if the owner has left the dog without supervision, that could be negligence.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:36 PM on October 28, 2004

Advice? Give a listen to Elton John's "Circle of Life". Really!
posted by mischief at 12:47 PM on October 28, 2004

I do think it was kind of shitty to leave the dog outdoors unsupervised, overnight. The barking was bad enough. And what about rain, etc. with respect to the dog itself?

Incidentally I fucking hate this dog - it's a general barking nuisance insane beast. I wasn't that surprised last night.
posted by scarabic at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2004

I don't have any prior experience with this, but a dead cat in the yard is: (A) a health hazard (the cat could have been rabid/sick, and its upcoming decay is also a problem) and (B) an attraction for vermin, especially if the owner is out of town. So, that would be a call to Animal Control.

The big issue is whether or not Animal Control will consider the event to be a nuisance (or worse) case for the dog and how they'll proceed. They may also not think highly of a neighbor who has gone out of town leaving the dog in the yard - it could be enough to prosecute for negligance or at least impound the dog. You could call to find out what their procedure is. I'm sure they've dealt with this before.

If it were me, I'd call Animal Control without hesitation.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:52 PM on October 28, 2004

Thanks, mischief. Thanks a lot. It was pretty traumatizing, especially early on when I thought the death rattle over the fence might have come from my cat. I didn't know my cat was safe until after it was all over, and I found him cowering on our side of the fence.

I should have gone back in and put that song right on. I'm sure it would've made us all feel like our old selves again.
posted by scarabic at 12:56 PM on October 28, 2004

trharlan: You know, I haven't had much sleep the last few days and I'm feeling fairly edgy, but I'm just going to ignore your very existence on this earth for the rest of time, or at least a few days - it's the best possible solution. How else would I treat someone who doesn't understand the difference between a domesticated dog and a wild animal?

PS: I've never wanted to call someone a name on mefi before, congratulations.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2004

easy folks - trharlan presented his view in a pointed way, but I think he's got a valid point that if something comes over your fence into your yard, and your dog kills it, then you are not responsible.

Dogs can't have all their instincts trained out of them. They can only be confined within one's own property, which this one was.

As far as liability, it's kind of like shooting a burglar in your own house. That's not murder, it's defense of one's own territory.

I'll look into the city ordinances when I can and report back. It will be interesting to see what they say.
posted by scarabic at 1:06 PM on October 28, 2004

scarabic, you might also want to see if roaming cats are considered a nuisance in themselves. I know in my community, leash & enclosure laws apply to cats just the same as dogs.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:13 PM on October 28, 2004

Sometimes certain flavors of aggressive dogs, although "domesticated" will attack and kill small children or even adults.

Regardless of whether it was a feral cat, or if someone feels that this was just an urbanized rerun of Wild Kingdom, there's a possibility that the dog is a potential threat to someone's kids.

Yeah, the dog's in the backyard...for now.
posted by mecran01 at 1:18 PM on October 28, 2004

you might also want to see if roaming cats are considered a nuisance

yeah, that could be. "My" cat is semi-adopted stray, but if it were entirely up to me, he'd be indoor-only.
posted by scarabic at 1:25 PM on October 28, 2004

leash & enclosure laws apply to cats just the same as dogs.

This must amount to disallowing outdoor cats, then. There is no way a fence shorter than about 15 ft. would keep the cat I'm taking care of inside the yard if it wants to leave, especially if there are any actual objects in the yard.
posted by advil at 1:26 PM on October 28, 2004

Definitely, report the incident to the city's Animal Control unit, which in Berkeley is...this. It is positively in their jurisdiction, at least to ensure that the dog is being properly cared for and not neglected.
posted by jasper411 at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2004

People are missing the point here: The dog killed a cat. Dogs, when properly tranied and supervised should never kill cats. Wether it's "natural" or not, dogs must be controlled by their owners. (Speaking of something being "natural" in the context of a domesticated animal, itself an "unnatural" state, is ridiculous.) If this is the dog's first cat, it's not going to be the last. Violent, aggressive and badly trained animals have no place in an urban setting.

you might also want to see if roaming cats are considered a nuisance
Oh, right, it's the cat's fault. Great.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:34 PM on October 28, 2004

The owner who let their cat wander is equally to blame, I'd say. You can try and train out pet's hunting instincts, but you can never be sure. I can imagine the silliness of trying to train my cat to not catch mice.

It's a sad situation, but let's not try and demonize the dog. That's quite a stretch.
posted by GeekAnimator at 1:39 PM on October 28, 2004

There is no way a fence shorter than about 15 ft. would keep the cat I'm taking care of inside the yard if it wants to leave, especially if there are any actual objects in the yard.

There is such a thing as cat-proof fencing. The people at the local shelter swear by this stuff - supposedly it works very well, and if you've already got a reasonably tall fence or wall around your yard, it installs in an afternoon. If I ever get a house of my own, I plan to fence in an outside cat area.
posted by vorfeed at 1:42 PM on October 28, 2004

I disagree, dog's are predators. They are carnivores. Cats are predators, and are also carnivores. If a cat kills a mouse it is no big deal, if a dog kills a cat it is suddenly the dog's fault? We do not know from the information that the dog is neglected. From personal experience, I would say that the dog at the very least is well fed. It has not ate the cat which indicates it is not hungry. My dog (a Cocker Spaniel who is both spoiled, and been to training classes) has only once killed an animal, a rabbit. I had let it outside to go to "number two" and I hear a scratch on the door and a very happy, very proud dog drop a rabbit right at my feet. I said "thank you" and properly disposed of it. Punishing the dog at the point would have been fruitless. I know many dog owners and every one who has a big dog, and a large enough property support wildlife, has had their dog bring them presents. I am sure cat owners are the same thing. Does the dog know the difference between a cat and another animal? No. Most dogs have been trained and selectively breeded for many centuries to do exactly what this dog did.

I do feel sorry for the cat, and if possible I would try to retrieve the tag and contact the owner, or at least get the owner to do it. The dog owner has nothing to be ashamed about, and any good person would contact the dead cat's owner. If you feel the dog is being neglected then by all means contact animal control. If the only reason you think the dog is being neglected is because the owner is not home, I personally would not feel that is grounds to contact. A neighbor or relative may very well coming over and feeding it. In that respect do whatever you feel comfortable with.
posted by geoff. at 1:44 PM on October 28, 2004

Sometimes certain flavors of aggressive dogs, although "domesticated" will attack and kill small children or even adults

It's more accurate to say that dogs that are abused into viciousness will do that. It might be easier to abuse one breed into vicousness than another, but I assure you that any breed of dog, or mutts, can be abused into dangerously vicious dogs.

The dog killed a cat. Dogs, when properly tranied and supervised should never kill cats

I'm sorry, that's just completely wrong. A properly trained dog might still attack and kill anything smaller than it that runs away and triggers its prey drive. Killing a cat is no different than killing a rat, mouse, squirrel, or other vermin; the dog has no way to know whether or not the cat has someone who cares about it.

This dog was controlled, if not as well as I'd like: it was restrained to its owners yard. The fault is not with the cat, who was being a cat. The fault is not with the dog, who was being a dog. The fault lies with the owner of the dog, for leaving his pet exposed overnight, but primarily with the owner of the cat, if any, for allowing the cat to wander around in a world full of dogs, coyotes, other predators, bigger cats, cars, and other hazards.

What you're asserting is as daft as saying that whether it's natural or not, a cat that kills a bird or mouse that wanders into its territory is some sort of horror, as violent animals like that have no place in an urban setting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:51 PM on October 28, 2004

I love cats as much as the next person, and probably even more. However, if a cat wanders into a dog's yard, what do you expect the dog to do? As mentioned above, what if a mouse wandered into the cat's field of view. Is it the cat's fault?

The only thing that will happen from making it a bigger deal that it already is is that the dog may be harmed physically or the owner financially. And that is just not right.
posted by eas98 at 1:53 PM on October 28, 2004

So the word from Animal Control is:

1) It's not illegal for a dog to kill a cat within the dog owner's property

2) They will not come out to deal with the body while the neighbor is gone - a cat's body is not important enough to risk dealing with a potentially dangerous dog

3) I am going to talk to the neighbor about the whole incident, and based on that conversation, I may file a nose complaint against the dog (he's had it coming for months anyway)

4) At that point he will receive a notice that a complaint has been filed and be asked to produce a dog license. He has two weeks to get one if he doesn't have one.

5) If a separate complaint is filed by someone at another residence, then he can be cited for nuisance. He can contest this in court, at which time I would be required to testify.

no apologies necessary, trharlan, you were right, as I thought from the start.

I really appreciate your passionate defense of the kitty, elwoodwiles. I feel disgusted and outraged as well.

Thanks everybody for the good advice. I think I know what to do now.
posted by scarabic at 1:54 PM on October 28, 2004

uh - that's noise complaint, not "nose."

And you're wrong, eas98 - the outcome that I'm shooting for here is that the neighbor will keep the dog inside more often. If I can't convince him to do so with a convesation, then a complaint will perhaps motivate him. One more complaint after mine and he faces a citation. If he's smart, he'll just mind the dog more carefully.
posted by scarabic at 2:12 PM on October 28, 2004

Cats do not kill people, dogs kill people. A dog that is not trained well enough to not know it shouldn't kill things is a menace in an urban area. While cats wandering freely may be a nuisance, an aggressive dog is a clear danger. I feel for the birds, squirrels, chimpmunks and rabbits, but a killer cat is different from a killer dog in size, ferocity and aggressive tendency.

Lastly, I don't understand how people can train their dogs not to pee on the rug, but not to kill? I grew up with dogs, I've been around dogs all my life. The dogs I know have been trained and controlled to prevent a tragedy such as this from happening. People are right, however, to say that sometimes the dog will just run out and kill something. When is does, it should be punished just as someone would punish it for peeing on the rug. Dogs don't know right or wrong, but they know an angry master from a pleased one.

scarabic, I'm also sorry if I pissed in your thread. Feel free to hit me on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

trharlan, no hard feelings, I'm just edgy today.

eas98, I see it as people accepting responsibility for their actions.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:15 PM on October 28, 2004

Don't let your cats out ppl. Nuff' said.
posted by trillion at 2:16 PM on October 28, 2004

Yeah, that is good advice in the end. But it is true that dogs are animals that have to be controlled. Nothing illegal happened here, but this mongrel is dangerous. He's the kind of dog that throws himself against the fence when he hears you on the other side of it. I think he's insane because they never walk him. They clearly treat him as a security device, and that is irresponsible.
posted by scarabic at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2004

A dog that is not trained well enough to not know it shouldn't kill things is a menace in an urban area.

No. Dogs don't know or not know that they "shouldn't kill things." They have prey drives. A dog that kills cats is no more a menace than a dog that kills mice, or a dog that kills bugs, or a dog that chases frisbees. All prey drive, all the same thing.

Lastly, I don't understand how people can train their dogs not to pee on the rug, but not to kill?

Then you simply don't understand much about dogs.

Dogs have a whole host of instincts about pissing. Down to wolves in the wild, they have places they piss and shit, and places they don't. It's these instincts that you tap into when you're house-training a dog.

Dogs don't have similar instincts about prey. If their prey drive is active enough to be triggered by something, they'll go after it. Different dogs have different levels of prey drive, and some hunting breeds have their prey drives short-circuited in different ways (this is how you get setters and pointers and retrievers), but all dogs have some degree of prey drive. Chasing prey is self-rewarding behavior, so it's not something you can easily train a dog out of -- about all you could do is give your dog something even better to do instead of chasing that cat.

"Punishing" a dog -- shouting at it or beating it -- for killing a small animal is just a good way to confuse the dog, or to take Step One down the road to abusing it into viciousness.

someone go get biscotti. she'll say something reasonable and not be an ass about it like I worry I'm doing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2004

Don't let your cats out ppl. Nuff' said.

Good advice, because I'd be more worried about people getting the cat than a dog. This week someone dumped off at our animal shelter a cat with its paws cut off. And it was still alive. Dogs can't be so fucking cruel.
posted by DakotaPaul at 2:57 PM on October 28, 2004

scarabic: the dog owner certainly owes the putative owner of the cat a good faith effort to discover the owner, an explanation and condolences, and the return of the carcass so the family can bury / cremate / dispose of it as they wish. A classy person might have the cat cremated first, especially if it's mangled or stinky, and present the ashes. This dude doesn't sound like a class act.

Keep an eye on it. If you can see well enough, see if the dog has food, water, and shelter in its yard. I dunno about the specifics of where you are, but not providing those is likely neglect. If you think you have a reasonable neglect case against the owners, call the local APSCA or whoever in your area. If the dog's lucky -- if it's young, not of a breed with silly kill-rules in the shelter, and not an unsocialized mess, it can get a new home. If not, well, sometimes being euthanized is better than continuing to be neglected.

This might be a good occasion to try to talk to the owner, if you can do that sort of thing (I'd be terrible at it). The dog had been just barking, but killing a cat is, at least nominally, an escalation and you could use it as an excuse to tell them to start bringing the dog in.

People using outside dogs as "security" are fuckwits. Real security dogs are highly trained, hugely expensive, and require constant supervision. Much as I hate to say it, better to just get a shotgun if you've got to explore that level of paranoid-stupid; at least it's not going to dig under the fence and eat the neighbor's bunnies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:02 PM on October 28, 2004

There are many good posts here.

1) the cat owner is at most fault here. Responsible pet owners (of ANY pet) do not allow their pets to wander freely. Had the cat's owner been responsible, the cat would be alive, scarabic wouldn't have had to witness this and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

2) the dog's owner is a pretty poor excuse for a dog owner for leaving the dog outside alone, but the dog was contained and on the owner's property.

3) dogs are predators, they have prey drive. Many breeds of dog (like terriers) have been purpose-bred for many generations precisely to kill things, and many dogs will view a strange cat on their property as potential prey, regardless of how safe that dog may be with cats who live in the dog's house.

A dog that is not trained well enough to not know it shouldn't kill things is a menace in an urban area.

You can train a dog to do many things, but a strong prey drive is extremely hard to overcome, and very few people are skilled and dedicated enough dog trainers to manage it, so responsible owners keep their dogs under physical control (which this dog was, by being contained). Dogs are not moral agents, they don't learn things in terms of "should" and "shouldn't", they learn things in terms of cost/benefit, it is extremely hard to make the cost of indulging a prey drive outweigh the benefit in a dog with a high prey drive. Dogs are predators, some have higher prey drive than others, but by nature they are all predators (just like cats, and you don't seem to be bemoaning the hundreds of birds and small mammals that cat had in all likelihood killed). Killing a cat does not mean a dog will harm a person (although a dog whose owner leaves it outside is often also undersocialized and undertrained, and those two things are definitely risk factors for aggression).
posted by biscotti at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2004

You can train a dog to do many things, but a strong prey drive is extremely hard to overcome,

It's quite easy to encourage, on the other hand, which is where the owner can actually become responsible for making matters worse. These folks aren't exactly doberman breeding drug dealers. They're a frumpy old white couple who, I'm told, have been burgled before.

I feel that they encourage the dog's barking (and his aggression in general) by leaving him outside all the time, never disciplining him when he barks, and never walking him, ever. A dog that gets more attention and more training is going to be less dangerous, and probably happier too.

The noise complaint is my only avenue, and as it's a fairly mild measure, I have no problem using it. All of my other neighbors are bothered by the dog and its barking. It's not unrealistic or unreasonable to ask his owner to exert more control over this animal. The cat thing illustrates that, even if it doesn't amount to a crime in and of itself.
posted by scarabic at 3:30 PM on October 28, 2004

...leaving him outside all the time...

Next to what you saw happen to the cat, scarabic, I find this part of your story the most sad.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:41 PM on October 28, 2004

Incidentally, as the day has gone by I've seen a bunch of the neighborhood cats around. I'm still not positive which one it was, but the only one it could have been that hasn't turned up yet is one of the young ones, born last spring. Old enough to jump fences, dumb enough to sniff an 80-lb dog's butt. It's too bad. He was adorable, friendly, and quite harmless.
posted by scarabic at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2004

The dog killed a cat. Dogs, when properly tranied and supervised should never kill cats.

This is utter nonsense. Sorry elwood, but you know nothing about dogs.

I'm sorry for the cat and its owner, but you can't stop nature.

I once read that 1 in 3 outdoor cats either gets killed by a car or another animal. If you let your pet out to roam on my property, that's your problem and your stupidity. In no way is the dog owner in this scenario responsible for a cat that wandered into his or her yard.

As for the barking, that's a problem and not at all related to the death of the cat.
posted by dobbs at 4:17 PM on October 28, 2004

scarabic, you're exactly right, and situations like this make me really sad. What people don't realize is just how much they overestimate dogs' protection instincts. The greatest benefit is in deterrence (i.e. barking), so you don't need an undersocialized, mistreated, aggressive dog, especially since a dog like that is a menace to a wide variety of people, including you (unlike a proper protection-trained dog, which is an entirely different matter). As I've said many times, anyone who will enter a property with a barking dog, regardless of the dog's size or breed, is prepared to deal with the dog, you don't need to neglect or abuse your dog for the illusion of protection (or for any other reason, for that matter).
posted by biscotti at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2004

It is only related in two narrow ways:

1) there was a hell of a lot of barking involved in the incident
2) the dog is frequently left outside unsupervised and undisciplined - this is what allows the barking to be a problem, and what allowed the incident last night to escalate as it did.

If they hadn't left town, I'm sure they would have woken up and come out to do something about the fight. So, again, there's nothing evil about the dog. Just no control on the part of the owner. They left him out there as a security measure. It wasn't a very nice thing to do to the dog, either. And look at the consequences. He got into big trouble. Tonight it could be a raccoon, and he could suffer major injuries himself.

Indoor cats are the way to go. Any vet will tell you so. It can be hard, especially converting an outdoor cat into an indoor cat, but the mortality statistics are quite compelling.
posted by scarabic at 4:24 PM on October 28, 2004

Yeah, biscotti - over-zealous barking also makes your neighbors hate you, while doing little to really protect you. I think having alert neighbors who give a shit about you is wayyy more effective protection.
posted by scarabic at 4:27 PM on October 28, 2004

If you can't train out what you revere as "natural" in a dog you have no business keeping one.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2004

Ok, everyone here is assuming that the catowner 'let the cat out'. Many cats are indoor cats that sneak out like ghosts through crakcs. And cats that wander into big barking dogs yards in the middle of the night and don't get the heck away faster than a speeding bullet when the dog comes at them, frankly don't sound very outdoorsy-wise, it could very well have been an indoor cat.

Sorry that wasn't an answer, it was just bugging me since the start of this thread (where I didn't answer, since so many other people had chipped in with the call animal control deal, which is what my reply was.)
posted by dabitch at 4:33 PM on October 28, 2004

elwoodwiles, trharlan is a reasonable guy. And he's right.

I *do* own a cat, an outdoors cat, infact, and there's lots of dogs in the neighbourhood. There's been irresponsible owners who let their dog loose and fortunately our cat gets pissed off enough that *they* back off.

In this situation I'd be of two minds:

The logical side: This is what dogs do, and if a cat is near an uncontrolled dog, this is a natural result. The only issue is whether it was permissible for the dog to be uncontrolled at the time. In this case, it seems, yes, it is reasonably permissible to leave your dog uncontrolled on your own private fenced property. Therefore, this sad event is just nature and comes under the "too bad" category.

The emotional side: My poor amber (or insert your cat's name) was just killed by your rabid/insane/bloodthirsty/terrible/barking/snarling dog! You are going to pay! Revenge! Assholes! You took my best friend away from me! DIE DIE DIE!

And, my friends, this is why we don't let victims sentence criminals. It's hard to have a clear head on an issue when all you can think of is revenge.

BTW: As a side issue, it's definately NOT RIGHT to be leaving domesticated animals to fend for themselves all night. It borders on abuse.
posted by shepd at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2004

I do have a question biscotti. What's wrong with leaving a dog out? I'm not talking leaving it out during thunderstorms, snowstorms and extreme cold/heat conditions. Just from personal experience, my dad is a dog lover as much as anyone else and when we had a large golden retriever, with the accompaning large yard -- it was a definite outdoor dog. It had a little dog house and was probably the best dog I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. We'd play with it all the time, take it on walks, etc. but it would sleep outside and not come in unless it was during inclement weather. It didn't seem maladjusted because of it and if it weren't for your previous comments I would have never thought it was wrong to keep it outdoors.

I only ask because I, myself, am thinking of getting a golden retriever and definitely don't want a large indoor dog in a small house. I love playing with animals, so it won't be a 'stick outside and forget it' kind of dog...
posted by geoff. at 4:47 PM on October 28, 2004

scarabic-- This has been the most interesting and sort of grimly dramatic AskMe thread ever.

Please let us know what happens when you talk to the neighbor, etc etc.
posted by xmutex at 5:00 PM on October 28, 2004

Maybe we ought to let some poisoned cats wander around as a sort of proto-Darwin solution.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2004

Okay, perhaps I don't know enough about dogs. It seems very weird, however, that while a dog killing a cat is acceptable and natural, but a barking dog is a "problem." It just rubs me the wrong way.

Also, I'm not really assigning blame to the dog, but to the dog's owner. As I posted earlier, the dog sounds to be out of control and constitutes a menance to the community. The killing of the cat is a symptom of this dog's aggression. As I also said, a properly trained and supervised dog should not be permited to kill another animal. Permitted as in, it is not permissible, as in, should not be allowed to occure.

I get the point that dog's are prey animals, and that their instincts are hard to change through training. An owner should train the dog as much as they can to keep the dog from killing cats and also supervise the dog to make up the slack between the power of the instinct and the power of the training.

One should not shrug their shoulders at this incident. It's not 'dogs being dogs.' This is a failure of an owner's responsibility to their pet.

On the other issue that has risen in this thread: Yes, cats should live indoors. Cats get injured and killed way to much to be let outside. My cat, for example, has lived an entire life indoors and will (hopefully) live a long and comfortable life. People are right to point out the responsibilities of the cat's owner as well. I agree that the cat was also failed by its owner. What I don't agree with is that the dog owner is somehow less responsible for having a dog that sounds out of control.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:45 PM on October 28, 2004

elwood: my dog is gentle, loving and at my old house ran through an electric fence to try to kill a duck.

If you really plan to react this way if your cat is attacked, I strongly recommend that you keep your cats indoors or in a thoroughly fenced/walled area.

Litigation cannot reincarnate lost pets, but it can bring you into a world of legal and financial pain as the suits and countersuits pile up.
posted by mosch at 6:29 PM on October 28, 2004

And, my friends, this is why we don't let victims sentence criminals.

Word. That's quite a tangental leap, but I totally agree.

After knocking again and leaving a note, I finally was able to talk to someone there. Apparently, the couple is on vacation and they have a maid coming by to mind the house. At 6am sharp, she let the dog out of the house and left. So apparently it was not out all night.

She said she looked around but didn't find a body. But she seemed pretty squeamish about it and I doubt she looked in the bushes, under rocks, etc, where the dog is likely to have stashed his trophy. I asked her to look again and she said she would.

I'm not sure when the couple is coming home, but they are definitely going to find a complaint waiting for them when they do. For some time now I've been irritated by this incessantly barking dog, and this incident just put it over the top. The guy needs to be notified that his dog is a problem, and start handling the animal a little differently.

Someone asked what's wrong with leaving dogs out. I don't think there's anything wrong with leaving them out, necessarily. But neglecting them, never exercising them, never playing with them, never disciplining them, and then leaving them out creates a problem. I've never seen these people take their dogs out on a leash, nor so much as go in the back yard and throw a stick around. I've seen them sit there while the thing barks incessantly, and the few times I've yelled "shut up!" back at the dog are the only times they've come out to quiet him down.

Oh, and interestingly, the reason they keep this dog outside most of the time is that it has gotten into bloody fights with one of their other dogs, and it must be kept separate. Go figure.

Anyway, I want to thank everyone for their contributions to this thread. This was a pretty disturbing experience, especially being woken up to it. Getting some kind support and good suggestions really made me feel better. So thanks. I think this may possibly be an excellent candidate for actually printing out a thread and handing it to the person it's about.
posted by scarabic at 6:32 PM on October 28, 2004

As I posted earlier, the dog sounds to be out of control and constitutes a menance to the community

It certainly seems unsocialized and has the potential to be dangerous.

The killing of the cat is a symptom of this dog's aggression

No. The dog doesn't care that it's a cat that someone else might care about. It's no more a symptom of the dog's aggression than it would be for the dog to kill a beetle, mouse, or bird. I don't believe that you could think that a dog who has killed a mouse is dangerous or aggressive; I think you're anthropomorphizing the dog as seeing a cat as somehow different from other small animals.

As I also said, a properly trained and supervised dog should not be permited to kill another animal

As biscotti notes, lots of breeds have been bred for hundreds or thousands of years to be either vermin-hunters or to run down prey, and even ones that haven't been bred for high drive retain a serious level of it. You can't just train that out of a dog, any more than you can train a cat not to kill mice and birds.

A responsible owner will train the dog, but you're not going to end up with a prey-proof dog. There are such things, but they're professionally-trained security dogs, competition schutzhund dogs, and so on, and expecting most people to hit that level of training isn't reasonable, and not every dog can be trained to that level in any case.

A responsible owner will surely take care to deny the dog the opportunity to chase and kill cats, or squirrels, or rabbits, or anything else. But sometimes the opportunity will present itself, such as when a cat wanders over the fence into your yard, or when a squirrel drops out of the tree. There's not much you can do about that other than keeping the dog's unsupervised time to a minimum, but it's not likely that there's going to be zero unsupervised time when you have a fenced yard available.

These people don't seem to be responsible dog owners, but killing a cat isn't a sign of that. It's a sign that they leave their dog alone way too much, so it has more opportunity to run into cats in its yard, but that's it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2004

I don't know if I quite agree with you, ROU_X.

While you can't completely pacify dogs with training (and yes, I've raised a few) it takes a pretty big, tough dog to actually kill something as big as a cat that's fighting back. Lots of dogs would back off, chase it away, nip at it, bark at it. This one put the cat's neck in its mouth and bit down. There are plenty of trees this cat could have run up, but I'm guessing the dog chased it down and killed it. This is not grounds to destroy the dog, but it is on the aggressive end of the spectrum. Not all dogs are like that.

It's not "unnatural," but I think all elwood_wiles is saying is that it's undesireable and should be discouraged by any dog owner. If you looked into your back yard and saw this going on, would you just let it happen? Or would you go out and stop the dog? If it's the latter, then I think you agree with elwood_wiles more than you think.

Take a dog whose owner tells it to quiet down when it barks. Now imagine that this same owner takes it out for walks and pulls back on the chain if the dog lunges at something. Now imagine that the dog chases a cat one day and gets a disciplining on the spot from the owner.

These things do add up and can change a dog's aggression factor. If you convince the dog that YOU are in fact the alpha in the house, they will not take as much initiative in attacking / barking, etc. Responsible owners do give their dogs that kind of training.
posted by scarabic at 7:14 PM on October 28, 2004

Well, that said, I guess I do agree with you that you can't train them so well that they'd pass up a juicy opportunity that dropped right in their laps.

Or, if that were possible, it's probably outside the ability of "all responsible dog owners" and perhaps also impossible with certain dogs.

You sure as hell can't train a cat to stop hunting. But you can't train a cat to bring you the paper, either.
posted by scarabic at 7:22 PM on October 28, 2004

"it takes a pretty big, tough dog to actually kill something as big as a cat"

Not necessarily. My brother had a Jack Russell Terrier that killed the first strange cat that it found in the yard. Yet it had been raised with cats in the house and had never shown any aggression towards them. When she spotted the cat in the back yard and it ran, instinct just kicked in.
posted by Tenuki at 7:45 PM on October 28, 2004

Tenuki is right. I grew up with terriers who were ratters on a horse farm; they would go after strange cats and even snakes - anything that fled. They didn't manage to kill any cats as far as I know -- rats, snakes, and even a small coon once, yes -- but they were certainly capable of the deed, despite being well-trained (but obviously bred for working) and happy dogs.

It wasn't until they passed away when we finally allowed some stray cats to move in and become barn cats (naturally now in charge of rodent control).
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:26 PM on October 28, 2004

It's not 'dogs being dogs.' This is a failure of an owner's responsibility to their pet.

elwood, here's what my dog can do on command: sit, lie down, lay on his side (left and right different commands), roll over, stay put for extended periods of time with distractions all around him, not eat food set right in front of him, wave goodbye, bow, crawl, balance things (including food) on his nose till I say drop them, prance, walk backwards, and turn the lights off and on via a regular switch on the wall, but I cannot train him to not chase raccoons. He just does it and there's no stopping him (but for the leash, of course, which he strains at to get them). He's a terrier. That's what terriers do. I've had him 7 years and there's no undoing what's in his blood. It IS a case of a dog being a dog. As a result, I keep my dog on a leash, but if a raccoon comes onto my property, he's toast, plain and simple.

Now, my dog doesn't have a problem with cats, but if he did, it would be the same situation. To him, they'd be the same: prey.

If you have an interest in learning more about dogs, you should check out this book. It deals specifically with the "problem" you seem to have re: understanding what IS dog.
posted by dobbs at 9:04 PM on October 28, 2004

What's wrong with leaving a dog out?

Okay, this is going to be long (and off topic, sorry scarabic), prepare yourself!

It depends on the specific situation, of course. But dogs are pack animals, they have a strong desire to be with their pack (especially at night) and forcing a pack animal to live away from its pack causes distress. This manifests itself in a variety of ways which humans find annoying (never mind the dog's distress), like nuisance barking, digging and chewing, and while many dogs adapt to it, it is not generally a happy situation for the dog (outdoor dogs are often more frantic for human companionship than indoor dogs, and many people interpret this as the dog being happy, when really it's the dog being frantic about the companionship it needs). It is also the case that much of the time when people keep outdoor dogs, they do not spend anywhere near enough time with the dog to maintain healthy interaction levels for bonding, and the fact that the dog lives outside means they are to some extent "out of sight, out of mind", so often proper training and socialization are neglected (which can make any dog dangerous), the owner is very likely to miss subtle hints of health issues, may not notice parasites, and may not adequately perform needed upkeep like regular grooming (which is important for more than appearances). A creature who has been purpose-bred for hundreds of years to want to be with and work for humans (like a Golden Retriever), and of a species which has extremely strong natural desires to live socially, should not be treated like an inanimate object to be played with when convenient, and shunned when inconvenient, and regardless of your intentions, this is very often what happens, it's much easier to ignore a dog when it lives outside, and think that the pat on the head and ten-minute game of fetch has fulfilled your duties for the day (whereas an indoor dog is with you for hours every day). Being social is a basic need for a dog, and as with any other basic need, if it is denied, problems result.

It is my personal, but educated, opinion, that dogs belong indoors, with their families. There are ways to train and manage dogs indoors with minimal property damage, crates are valuable for keeping dogs safely confined in the house if you are not around to supervise, but really, if you're that worried about mess and damage, please just don't get a dog. Dogs are messy, and they cause damage.

As an aside: I would be pretty suspicious about the ethics of a breeder of Goldens who'd happily let a puppy go to a home which planned to keep it outdoors unless the home was a hunting household intending to use the dog as a hunting dog (the main reason being that people who work their dogs are guaranteed to spend adequate time with them, not that living outdoors is the preferable situation in this case either). And since ethical breeders take responsibility for the dogs they breed for life, they want to place their puppies carefully. Rescues and shelters will almost never place dogs in homes intending to keep them outside, for good reasons, including the fact that being an outdoor dog is an enormous risk factor for abandonment (which is often how the dog ended up with the shelter or rescue in the first place), in part because people generally do not bond as closely with a dog who does not live with them.

That said, there are certainly people who keep dogs outdoors and do it properly, they provide proper shelter, choose their breed carefully, and usually do things with their dogs which involve large amounts (I mean hours) of daily one-on-one time with the dog, like Schutzhund competition. But the average dog owner just does not keep outdoor dogs properly, the dogs suffer from it, and from a personal standpoint, I just don't see the point of an outdoor dog, it's a pet, not a tree.

And scarabic, I think you're confusing aggression with prey drive, the two are not always the same. And there are different forms of aggression, which are not always indicative of other forms of aggression (e.g. dogs who are dog aggressive are not necessarily people aggressive). This dog may have attacked the cat over territorial aggression heightened by prey drive, it may never have been socialized to cats, etc. etc. You can train/condition many things out of dogs, but you cannot cover every base, nor can you extrapolate one form of aggression from another.
posted by biscotti at 10:55 PM on October 28, 2004

What is "this PETA shit" you're referring to, skallas? Thanks for drop-kicking the conversation into the litterbox.

Why don't you go chase a raccoon or something.
posted by scarabic at 10:57 PM on October 28, 2004

As previously mentioned, neither cat nor dog were at fault. It's their indifferent owners that are to be blamed.

And as sad as scarabic's incident was, it's DakotaPaul's comment that had me in tears. People are such assholes.
posted by deborah at 11:03 PM on October 28, 2004

deborah, I'm glad I'm not the only one who burst into tears reading DakotaPaul's comment. I've been giving my cats extra loving time tonight. Anyone who has cats knows how distressed they are at being touched around the paws for even a painless nail clipping. I can't think about the screams and struggles you'd have to ignore to brutalize an animal this way. What a world of pain we inflict on the small and the helpless.

biscotti, I am glad you were here to articulate the ethics of leaving a dog outside on more or less a permanent basis. I once spent a night at a friend's with a neighbor whose dog lived like this (and sadly, it's an especially common thing in rural and small town areas, where there's more space and people are less likely to interfere with your "business"). Her great crime was to have grown from a puppy into a dog. So, she lived most of her life in a waste-filled chicken-wire pen, and that night I listened to her scream her way through a lightning storm. I think of her at times like this, because I spent long minutes looking at her before deciding not to intervene and call the local animal control while I was there. I asked my friend to, but I didn't pursue it aggressively, and it haunts me. Not my town, not my neighbor, and not a good enough excuse for an instant.

So scarabic, whatever else, you are being highly responsible to pursue this -- for everyone's safety and well-being, including the dog's. Not to mention for yourself, so you don't feel the way I do whenever this issue is raised.
posted by melissa may at 12:32 AM on October 29, 2004

Dogs, when properly tranied and supervised should never kill cats

I've just got back from walking a fully trained guide dog. I find it difficult to imagine there are many dogs which have more training to overcome their natural instincts. He's completely soft, incredibly friendly and I've never seen him be even remotely aggressive yet while he was off the lead he saw a squirrel and went off like a rocket. You just can't train that stuff out.
posted by biffa at 2:36 AM on October 29, 2004

On a side note: where I live--on Queen Anne hill in Seattle--we have, along with raccoons and possums, coyotes and foxes.

A local television news story interviewed a UW biologist who trapped and tagged a female coyote with a radio collar and has then tracked her in a van for two years. He has gotten within fifty feet of her on a number of occasions since, but, after the trapping, tagging and release, he has never seen that coyote. You never see coyotes--never--but they are in every neighborhood in Seattle, including downtown. As they are in any major metropolitan area in America--there are coyotes in Mahattan.

As for foxes, a friend of mine was driving on top of Queen Anne at sunrise one morning recently and passed a fox placidly walking down a sidewalk in all its vulpine glory.

While raccoons and possums can and occasionally do kill cats, foxes and coyotes certainly do hunt and eat them. I think of foxes and coyotes every time I see a missing kitty poster on a telephone pole. Cats should stay indoors.
posted by y2karl at 3:02 AM on October 29, 2004

You can train a dog to ignore its killing instinct 99.9% of the time, but there's always that one occasion, particularly when they're younger (although from what scarabic's been saying, it doesn't sound like the owners have been training the dog anyway).

Anecdote: Similar to mosch, I was at a friend's place, who had a duck pond and some ducks, when a mutual friend came round with a sweet 1-year old pup. We went inside, and looked out about five minutes later to see half the ducks dead, and the dog running around in circles chasing the rest. It would catch one, shake it by the neck to kill it, drop it, then run after the next one. It was totally fixated on killing the ducks and had to be chased and dragged off of its latest victim.

Anyway. I guess if a cat gets into their yard normally, they're not liable. But if they're out of town they should have either used a kennel, or a dogsitter. If they can afford a maid, surely they can also afford kennels and proper dog-care. It sounds to me as if they don't deserve to have the dog, and I'm wondering if they might be liable for neglect there.
posted by carter at 8:14 AM on October 29, 2004

But the bottom line in your reply, biscotti, is not that dogs should not be outside, but that they need to be taken care of. They need walkies, they need a "job", they need to be kept healthy. All those things are entirely possible with an outside (non-punt) dog.

IMO, IOW, there's no need to keep your german shepard, husky, etc, inside. They'll be just peachy-fine outside, provided you give them daily walks, games, and lovin'. Plus a doghouse, so that they're sheltered.

Those little yappy punt-dogs, OTOH, can't survive nicely outside. But then I'm also of the opinion that thye shouldn't be allowed to exist in the first place.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:03 AM on October 29, 2004

That's not what biscotti said.

biscotti said that dogs need hours of companionship every day, and that a very few people are able to provide this to an outside dog because they're engaged in intensive training for hunting or schutzhund or whatever.

Not daily walks, games, and lovin'. Daily *multiple hours of human interaction*. Multiple hours of walkies, games, and lovin', each and every day, no matter how shitty the weather is, and no matter how shitty you feel, and no matter how busy you are.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2004

As someone who's lived in small condos with a Labrador Retreiver for nearly six years, I'd like to dispell this fear about big dogs in the house. Dogs don't need that much space – after all, wolves live in holes they dig in the ground – but, as biscotti says, they do need companionship. Unless you have a kennel full of dogs (and distant neighbours) dogs should live where you do.

Of course, if you live outside, then it'd be fine.
posted by timeistight at 11:20 AM on October 29, 2004

No, fff, the bottom line in my post is that for most dogs, living inside is a far better situation than living outside, because your average pet owner's idea of adequate attention and socialization is far less than a dog really needs. A Husky can likely live outside reasonably well (especially if it's not the only dog), since it's bred to be independent and has appropriate physical attributes to cope with cold temperatures, a German Shepherd has been specifically bred for a desire to work with and be with people, they should not live outside simply because they are big and have a double coat. And really, the true bottom line, which cannot be changed, is that dogs are pack animals, a single dog, living outside 24/7, is a pack animal banished from its pack, and that is a highly stressful situation with many negative consequences, it is not "peachy-fine" in the majority of cases, it's just that many people who hold the "dogs belong outside" attitudes do not have much knowledge about dog psychology, and ignore, misinterpret or simply do not notice the signs of distress many outdoor dogs exhibit. A dog who lives outside during the day, but inside at night, is a reasonable compromise. All of this is just my opinion, based on what I know about dogs, and the sorts of things I have seen working as a vet tech, but it is an opinion shared by an increasing number of dog behaviourists and trainers, rescues and shelters, and other people with hands-on experience - see here, here, here, and here.

And what timeistight and ROU_Xenophobe said.
posted by biscotti at 11:25 AM on October 29, 2004

...because your average pet owner's idea of adequate attention and socialization is far less than a dog really needs.

This is just as true for cats, in my experience. Your average pet owner seems to regard their pet as some sort of ambulatory furniture. And don't get me going on the selfish, selfish assholes who get their cats declawed....
posted by y2karl at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2004

Me, I am just trying to imagine the person that really actually suddenly bursts into tears at an Ask Metafilter thread.

That's a picture.
posted by xmutex at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2004

I dunno, xmutex, you seemed pretty riveted yourself earlier. If only we were all as heartstricken by what we do to animals in the name of food and research. Me included.

Wow, I feel like this discussion of whether one can/should train a dog's prey instinct out of existence has gone on forever, with both sides separated only by a hair.

Let's say your otherwise-well-trained dog bolted at a squirrel while you were out for a walk. Would you just sit there and wait for him to eat the squirrel and return, then quietly resume your walk? Or would you follow and try to stop it?

I'd like to hear from anyone here who would *not* go over and try to stop it. Anyone? A couple of folks have overstated the degree to which this instinct will respond to training. And overstated the dog owner's responsibility to obliterate the dog's prey instinct.

But I don't think anyone here is saying that killing cats and/or other animals is acceptable behavior that you just plain ignore. Can we all just agree at last that a dog who kills a cat is not a menace to society, but probably deserves a good talking-to? Yeesh.
posted by scarabic at 2:26 PM on October 29, 2004

Oh, I'm still riveted. I am just saying: literally bursting into tears.

posted by xmutex at 2:30 PM on October 29, 2004

Oh, also, did anyone think of Randy Lenz from Infinite Jest while reading this?
posted by xmutex at 2:32 PM on October 29, 2004

Can we all just agree at last that a dog who kills a cat is not a menace to society, but probably deserves a good talking-to? Yeesh.

Nope, sorry; we can't. I stop my dog from chasing cats and I can usually talk him down to simply staring at them balefully (if they don't run), but nothing I could do to him after the fact would have any effect his future behaviour. The only effective way to train a dog is to catch him in the act.

For your neighbours to punish their dog on Friday or Saturday for something he did Wednesday night is nothing but ignorant cruelty.
posted by timeistight at 3:14 PM on October 29, 2004

Let's say your otherwise-well-trained dog bolted at a squirrel while you were out for a walk. Would you just sit there and wait for him to eat the squirrel and return, then quietly resume your walk? Or would you follow and try to stop it?

My dog is never off-leash when we're out for a walk unless we're in a fenced-in or otherwise safe area. And squirrels more often than not bolt up a tree when menaced. But assuming I found myself in the above-described situation, I'd do my best to call my dog off, and would definitely prevent him from eating the squirrel if he happened to catch it (I train a solid "leave it" very early on). I would never, however, punish him for it, allowing my dog to be put in the position where he can get at a squirrel when I haven't trained my recall effectively enough to stop him is a management error and my own fault, not the dog's fault.

And more or less exactly what timeistight said - you have at most a few seconds after catching a dog in the act for scolding to be effective, otherwise all you're doing is showing your dog that you're unstable and likely to get angry with it for no reason, and/or have it associate whatever it was doing when you started your punishment with the punishment (like coming back to you, for example, and you do not ever want to punish that - most of the time when people complain that their dog never comes when called it's because they have trained the dog not to come when called (by associating negative things with coming when called), or have never properly trained the dog to associate coming when called with wonderful things). Besides that, punishment is for people who won't look for more effective and humane training methods.
posted by biscotti at 4:21 PM on October 29, 2004

A couple of folks have overstated the degree to which this instinct will respond to training. And overstated the dog owner's responsibility to obliterate the dog's prey instinct.

As I believe I said earlier, talented, knowledgeable and dedicated trainers can control a dog with a high prey drive, they can't "train it out", but they can train in controls. But not many people are that dedicated or knowledgeable (fortunately, not every dog has a high prey drive). And in a case like this, where we're talking about a backyard dog (which increases territoriality as well as general frustration levels) with a cat who comes into his yard, there's no way any other outcome should be expected.
posted by biscotti at 4:43 PM on October 29, 2004

What can I say, xmutex? It was a spontaneous response to a tragic incident. The day I don't cry at something like that is the day I'm dead.
posted by deborah at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2004

meh, whatever. I've seen lots of outside dogs that seemed perfectly mentally healthy. Not being any sort of dog person at all, it won't be an issue in my life!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:30 PM on October 30, 2004

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