What to do about someone harassing our dogs?

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What to do about someone harassing our dogs?

We live in out in a rural area; we have 3 dogs. This man runs by our house everyday. 2 of our dogs run along side him and bark at him. We have tried to fix the problem by keeping the dogs in the house during the times of day that he runs by and it had been working; he would usually run by anytime between 11 am and 3 pm. He also runs by our property only to turn around and run by it again. Recently he has been taking pictures of our dogs and threatening to sue. Today he ran by later than normal (I personally think he did that because he knows we have been keeping the dogs in and he wanted them outside because he is looking for a lawsuit). We had the dogs out and I tried to get them to come back, but when this man comes around they do not listen. This man has run though our property chasing the dogs and he has thrown things at them. They remember that. I yelled after the man to let us know when he is running by so we can keep our dogs inside but he did not answer me. I just don’t know what to do. We are going to get shock collars for the dogs but that will not be for a couple of days. I am at my wit’s end. Does he have any right to sue us if he is the one harassing us?

Asked on December 5, 2010 under Personal Injury, Minnesota

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Since you said the man has " run through your property", you could sue him for trespass.  Trespass is the volitional entry on the land of another without consent or privilege.  You also said that the man has "run through your property and has thrown things at the dogs".  Throwing things on your property would also constitute trespass.  Trespass is not just limited to a person entering your property without consent or privilege, but also occurs when the individual causes an object to enter your property.  When he throws things on your property, that constitutes trespass.

It appears that he is trying to get the dogs to attack or bite him by chasing them and throwing things at them.  Under these circumstances, if the dogs attack or bite him after he has provoked them and he files a lawsuit against you for negligence and strict liability, you could assert the defense of assumption of the risk.  Assumption of the risk means that the man recognized and understood the danger and voluntarily chose to encounter it.  By provoking the dogs, he recognized and understood the danger of being attacked or bitten, and therefore assumed the risk of being injured.  Assumption of the risk would provide you with a defense against his lawsuit for negligence and/or strict liability.  If your state allows the defense of contributory  negligence, you could also assert that defense.  Contributory negligence means that the man contributed to his own injury by provoking the dogs.  Contributory negligence would only be an applicable defense to negligence.  It would not be an applicable defense to strict liability.  Negligence is based on failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances) to prevent foreseeable injury.  Strict liability means that even if due care is exercised, there is still liability for the injury.  Under strict liability in dog bite cases, the first time the dog bites someone does not support a claim for strict liability.  There has to be a second incident of the dog biting someone before strict liability is applicable.


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