Q: What is my liability?
My dog killed my neighbors outdoor cat last night. My dog got out of our fence and we found my dog and their cat on their front lawn. We have no idea whether the dog ran into the cat in the woods, or on their property. We all heard a commotion and then saw the dog looking over the cat while it was laying on the ground. Their cat is kept outside and has a house on their front porch. Neither were on a leash and we can't tell where the dog met up with the cat since it's an outside cat. What should we do? Our neighbor is devastated.
A: There are two issues here. The first is whether your neighbor calls the local Animal Control office and files a dangerous dog report, which could trigger a review on whether your dog is too dangerous to be kept (and risk euthanasia). More likely, you as the owner would simply be cited for the dog running loose, as opposed to your dog being put down. However, a finding of aggressive behavior once can be used to put the dog down should a second aggressive incident be charged and found to have happened. These outcomes often are dictated by local county or city ordinance and code provisions. The second concern has to do with the cat owner filing a civil claim for the loss of their cat, in which case you turn the matter over to your homeowner's insurance, which will retain and pay a lawyer to defend any lawsuit, as well as pay any judgment under your policy.
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