I Shouldn’t Have To Take Care Of Your Dog – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
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What is the answer to the age old question: Am I my brother’s keeper? In other words, what responsibility do you have for someone else’s dog?

Legal Responsibility: From a legal standpoint, unless a dog is in your care, custody or control, I don’t think the government should impose some form of responsibility on you regarding someone else’s dog. I believe in personal responsibility, so I believe what’s mine is my problem, and what is yours is your problem… legally. However, if you board and care for someone else’s dog by agreement, and something happens to that dog, then the law is usually going to hold you to the same, or similar, level of responsibility as if the dog was yours. That means you are going to be responsible for any damages that are linked to that dog, and you are going to be responsible for the costs of that dog. So, if you are caring for someone else’s dog, then you should have an agreement as to who is responsible for what such as veterinary bills, feeding, damages, and such like. Even if you are caring for a dog for a friend, such as taking the dog for walks, or caring for the dog while they are away on vacation, you should have this conversation. It is also good to have something in writing that authorizes you to get the dog the necessary medical care if the owner isn’t around, and have a copy of that filed with the veterinarian. Some veterinarians won’t work on a dog unless the actual owner authorizes treatment and money arrangements aren’t worked out in advance. Even though veterinarians are in the business of caring for dogs, they aren’t going to be your brother’s keeper, either. It is also important for rescue volunteers an organizations to have it spelled out who is responsible for what, when, where, how and why. I know of a rescue group that became obligated for nearly $100,000 in bills because of the foolish decisions of one of its volunteers, which obligated the group. You can legally obligate yourself or others in cases of care, custody or control. You are also going to be held responsible if you take in a lost animal. Just because it belongs to someone else doesn’t mean you can claim it as yours, nor does it mean you can neglect or abuse that animal. It is illegal to steal something that belongs to another. And it is illegal to neglect or abuse any animal. But, let’s say that the dog isn’t in your care, custody or control, what then? What do you do with a dog that you know is being neglected or abused? These are always uncomfortable situations. You are not legally required to do anything, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. That suffering animal, those images of suffering, will torment you until you do something about it. It is important to consider whether it is possible for the law to intervene. Many forms of neglect and abuse are illegal, and you can get the law involved. You aren’t doing it for the sake of the person, you are doing it for the sake of some helpless animal. Animals can’t save themselves in a human world. If you are like me, then you know you have to do something about it. You wouldn’t even be complaining that you “shouldn’t have to take care of” someone else’s dog if it didn’t bother you. Certain needs are to be met for dogs in most communities, and there are laws about those kinds of things. You don’t have to take care of the problem, but you can surely get someone else that has the authority to do something about it. That is what the law is for, from the police, to animal control, to the homeowner’s association.

What If The Law Is Unjust: Sometimes, the laws are unjust, and a dog needs legal assistance. Sometimes you need to make it your business to provide legal and political help to prevent a dog from an unjust legal ruling or system. This would be the case for unjust dog bite laws, barking laws, welfare laws, or breed bans.

What Are Your Moral Responsibilities: Another consideration is for those animals that might be in situations not involving any kind of enforceable law or rule, but the care the dog is getting isn’t adequate care. Sometimes, just a conversation with the person is the best answer. Many people are well meaning, and are devastated when they realize that they aren’t caring for their dog properly. Then again, some people are selfish and thick headed, and think that no care is good care. I’ve seen both. Sometimes, you know the dog is in trouble, so you secretly help the dog. I know of people who have tossed food into back yards for neglected dogs. Or reached over the fence and filled up their water bowls. Or given dog gifts to neighbors so the dogs have toys and bedding. Or tolerated that person’s dog in their yard even though they don’t like dogs and don’t want that dog in their yard. And I know of people that have contacted animal welfare groups that have gone in and gotten the dog, one way or another. Sometimes by talking to the owner and getting them to relinquish the dog. Sometimes by stealing the dog, or organizing a public protest, or getting the press involved. I’m not advocating breaking any law here. What I’m saying is that if the problem isn’t really yours, sometimes you can make it someone else’s problem. I’ve also known people that purchased dog training lessons for another person, so the dog and owner relationship was fixed. Sometimes that dog that bothers you needs training, but the person is too proud to say they can’t afford it. I think it is wrong to wash your hands from the legitimate needs of dogs you see need help. You’ll know it in your heart that you need to do something about the situation, and then it is going to be morally wrong to be so legalistic as to say it isn’t your problem. It is, and you know it. And you know also that if it was your dog in that situation, and for some reason your dog’s needs weren’t being met, you’d wish someone helped you out. The Golden Rule does apply. Someone some day might just ask you: why didn’t you do something about it when you saw what was happening? That can be crushing if you didn’t do what you knew to do. The entire basis of dog rescue volunteering is doing the right thing for dogs and people, it is the Golden Rule in action.

What About People That Shouldn’t Have A Dog: Then, the question is about smaller stuff, such as when someone is making their dog your business. They ask too much. Maybe they are trying to guilt you into taking their dog, or caring for their dog, or their dog is doing damage to your property or rights. Parents sometimes pawn their kids off on relatives, friends and neighbors so they can go out partying. Some people never grow up, and they shouldn’t have kids. Or dogs. This kind of thing can be infuriating. Sometimes the best answer is “No.” Sometimes the best answer is finding a way to get that dog into a home that will properly love and care for that dog.

When Do You Make It Yours: And then, sometimes, you ask the person if you can have the dog. That if they can’t care for the dog, then you will. You do make it your problem. Even if the dog never becomes your property, you make it your dog. You become the dog’s favorite uncle or aunt. You pay for what the dog needs, you do the training, you do the exercise and play and socialization. Maybe you buy the dog off of the person and it becomes yours.

I can’t say what you should do in all circumstances. You are not legally or morally obligated for someone else’s dog in many circumstances, and it really is none of your business. Some of this is a legal matter that requires the involvement of the police and an attorney. Others involve creative ways of helping the dog but not making the dog yours. And sometimes, the best way is to make it your problem.

You choose.