Note: Back in June, the Thinking Christian Woman introduced A Lawyerly Look at the Good Book to help demystify rights and responsibilities under the law by discovering common legal principles in the pages of the Great Lawgiver’s book – the Bible.
A Lawyerly Look at the Good Book – No. 1
According to California Funny Laws, in Belvedere, CA, “No dog shall be in a public place without its master on a leash.”
Two weeks ago I was walking my boxer dog around 8:30 pm when I heard barking, followed by a woman shouting, “Oh no, here we go again!” The next moment, I saw a black and white dog closing on us fast from across the street – and it’s master was definitely not on a leash!
I quickly pulled my dog close and heeled around, but it was too late. Though very dark out, I could see the attacker – teeth barred – snarling and nipping. We were in the middle of a dog owner’s nightmare. Soon a woman came running from across the street and pulled the dog away.
After the dust settled, we slowly limped home where I discovered several bites on the poor little guy’s hind legs. I cleaned the wounds and consoled him a bit, then drove back to the house where the loose dog came from and talked with the dog sitter on the porch, who turned out to be, ironically – a postal carrier!
This fact scenario appears to be a classic example of the legal doctrine of negligence per se – which holds that, if there is a law spelling out a duty, and I fail to fulfill that duty, and if my failure results in harm to another of the type envisioned by the law, then I am legally responsible for making the harmed person whole. There is no need to prove negligence in such a situation, it is implied.
In my case, our city has a law requiring all dogs on public property to be restrained by a hand-held leash. I was lawfully walking my leashed dog on a public sidewalk when he was bitten by an unleashed dog. Under negligence per se, and absent any defenses, the dog sitter and owner are liable for the damages.
Most municipalities have similar leash laws, but did you know that there are even animal control laws in the bible? Check out Exodus 21:28-37, for example, where an ox owner is held liable if his animal hurts another.
Even without a leash law, most adults have a sense that it’s generally a good idea to restrain dogs in some way, not only for the protection of others, but also for the dog’s safety. The dog that attacked us came charging across a city street and could easily have been hit by a passing vehicle. James 4:17 tells us that, “…to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
My dog has recovered fairly well after about a week and a half of convalescing, even though he is 11 and has advanced heart disease. He still asks to go out on walks, which I think is amazingly brave. I sent the vet bill to the registered owner and the dog-sitter. We shall see.
Praise God that He’s not surprised by anything that occurs in our daily lives. In some cases, His Word speaks directly to our specific situation. In all cases, His Word gives wise guidance to help us prevent, or if need be, face, life’s challenges.
For the Thinking Christian Woman, it’s a wonderful consolation to know she can look to God for sound advice and comfort no matter what comes snarling out of the dark.
© 2011 Melody K. Anderson
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