I love dogs. Truly. I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed by their loyalty and friendship for every one of my 60 years on this planet. Anyone who read “Now it begins” after the passing of my wife’s dog Ginger this past January knows how hard I took it…and still do. There is nothing like the peek of a wet nose resting on your knee as your dog looks to you for a nibble of whatever it is that you are eating at the moment. Anyone who says that animals do not have souls has never been blessed to feel the unadulterated joy of a dog’s welcome home after a few days absence…or longer.
Last week I wrote about the joy my wife and I have had in seeing the return of the wildlife along our rides together. This week, however, it is time for something different. You see, this past week I have been chased, threatened by, and bitten by several dogs as their owners largely looked on in amusement as I rode by. As I passed one house about a mile from home I saw a woman working in her yard wave to me and I waved back…a split second before her dog was on my back wheel. I never saw him coming. He was snarling, barking, and latched on to my cycling shoe. The woman yelled out “He’s a nice boy. He’s never bitten anyone.” I yelled out “Lady, he’s clamped onto my shoe!” At that moment, I unclipped and was able to shake the dog’s teeth for a brief second. He came at me again and I had to literally punt him to the side of the road. The woman screamed angrily at me and ran towards me as well while the dog charged yet again. At this point her husband came out of the house. I pulled my dirk out of my bag and yelled at the lady that if she did not get hold of her dog, I would be forced to kill him, then call animal control and the police. At that point she was able to reach the dog and did in fact get control of the dog before hurling obscenities at me as I clipped back in and sped away.
I was still shaking when I got back in the safety of my home a couple of minutes later…not so much out of fear, but out of anger. Anger that I had lost control of my temper enough to have to kick and threaten a dog. Anger that this woman refused initially to recognize the threat that her dog posed and so simply allowed it to run loose. And anger that she and her husband had the audacity to blame ME for the situation.
Again, this was not an isolated incident. As more pet owners and families are forced to remain home, they are able to enjoy time together in their yards. I understand this. I encourage this, because rebuilding quality family time is sorely needed in our society. However, my wife and I believed in using quality time as an opportunity to also teach our children about basic responsibilities as a decent human being. When we camped, for instance, we would never leave the site until we left it better than when we arrived. ANY form of trash…debris…or markings were picked up and raked up. Our children were never allowed to simply discard fast food wrappers out the window…if they did, the car was stopped and we picked up trash along the roadside for a bit. Above all, our dogs (and later cats) were NEVER allowed out of a fenced yard off leash. Yes, sometimes they escaped and led us on a merry chase, but we would never simply stand by and “watch what happens.”
Dogs are territorial by nature, I understand that. A stranger that enters their environment will trigger the “fight or flight” response, and most dogs will choose the fight – regardless of their size. Intelligent, decent human beings who have undertaken the responsibility of adopting a dog into their family must understand this. If they choose to not do so, there are legal ramifications in virtually every society. I have noted before (“Lights, Camera, Action”) that I ride with front and rear facing cameras, as many true cyclists do these days for our protection as well as the protection of our families. I have listed below the legal aspects of dog law in the State of Michigan. Please know, again, that I love dogs, but if you choose to stick your head in the sand and force me to take action it will not stop with the death of your dog…I may very well end up with your 401K, your home….. I am not, nor is any cyclist, aware of your dog’s history, but a loose dog that attacks a cyclist can at the least cause a crash with the possibility of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of damage to the bicycle. If the dog is successful at penetrating the cyclist’s shoes/kit, the bite could result in serious medical damages. I am not in a position to be able to withstand these financial burdens, nor the psychological damages sustained by the inability to ride while recovering from your refusal to accept responsibility for the animal under your legal domain.
287.279 Dogs pursuing livestock or poultry, attacking persons, or entering livestock or poultry producer’s field or enclosure; killing
Sec. 19. Any person including a law enforcement officer may kill any dog which he sees in the act of pursuing, worrying, or wounding any livestock or poultry or attacking persons, and there shall be no liability on such person in damages or otherwise, for such killing. Any dog that enters any field or enclosure which is owned by or leased by a person producing livestock or poultry, outside of a city, unaccompanied by his owner or his owner’s agent, shall constitute a trespass, and the owner shall be liable in damages. Except as provided in this section, it shall be unlawful for any person, other than a law enforcement officer, to kill or injure or attempt to kill or injure any dog which bears a license tag for the current year.
History: 1919, Act 339, Eff. Aug. 14, 1919;–CL 1929, 5263;–CL 1948, 287.279;–Am. 1959, Act 42, Eff. Mar. 19, 1960;–Am. 1973, Act 32, Imd. Eff. June 14, 1973.
(Act 426 of 1988)
Sec. 1. As used in this act:
(a) “Dangerous animal” means a dog or other animal that bites or attacks a person, or a dog that bites or attacks and causes serious injury or death to another dog while the other dog is on the property or under the control of its owner. However, a dangerous animal does not include any of the following:
(i) An animal that bites or attacks a person who is knowingly trespassing on the property of the animal’s owner.
(ii) An animal that bites or attacks a person who provokes or torments the animal.
(iii) An animal that is responding in a manner that an ordinary and reasonable person would conclude was designed to protect a person if that person is engaged in a lawful activity or is the subject of an assault.
(b) “Livestock” means animals used for human food and fiber or animals used for service to human beings. Livestock includes, but is not limited to, cattle, swine, sheep, llamas, goats, bison, equine, poultry, and rabbits.
Livestock does not include animals that are human companions, such as dogs and cats.
(c) “Owner” means a person who owns or harbors a dog or other animal.
(d) “Provoke” means to perform a willful act or omission that an ordinary and reasonable person would conclude is likely to precipitate the bite or attack by an ordinary dog or animal.
(e) “Serious injury” means permanent, serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment of a bodily function of a person.
(f) “Torment” means an act or omission that causes unjustifiable pain, suffering, and distress to an animal, or causes mental and emotional anguish in the animal as evidenced by its altered behavior, for a purpose such as sadistic pleasure, coercion, or punishment that an ordinary and reasonable person would conclude is likely to precipitate the bite or attack.
History: 1988, Act 426, Eff. Mar. 30, 1989.
287.322 Complaints; Retention, Destruction of Animal; Court Orders to Protect Public.
Sec. 2. (1) Upon a sworn complaint that an animal is a dangerous animal and the animal has caused serious injury or death to a person or has caused serious injury or death to a dog, a district court magistrate, district court, or a municipal court shall issue a summons to the owner ordering him or her to appear to show cause why the animal should not be destroyed.
(2) Upon the filing of a sworn complaint as provided in subsection (1), the court or magistrate shall order the owner to immediately turn the animal over to a proper animal control authority, an incorporated humane society, a licensed veterinarian, or a boarding kennel, at the owner’s option, to be retained by them until a hearing is held and a decision is made for the disposition of the animal. The owner shall notify the person who retains the animal under this section of the complaint and order. The expense of the boarding and retention of the animal is to be borne by the owner. The animal shall not be returned to the owner until it has a current rabies vaccination and a license as required by law.
(3) After a hearing, the magistrate or court shall order the destruction of the animal, at the expense of the owner, if the animal is found to be a dangerous animal that caused serious injury or death to a person or a dog.
After a hearing, the court may order the destruction of the animal, at the expense of the owner, if the court finds that the animal is a dangerous animal that did not cause serious injury or death to a person but is likely in the future to cause serious injury or death to a person or in the past has been adjudicated a dangerous animal.
(4) If the court or magistrate finds that an animal is a dangerous animal but has not caused serious injury or death to a person, the court or magistrate shall notify the animal control authority for the county in which the complaint was filed of the finding of the court, the name of the owner of the dangerous animal, and the address at which the animal was kept at the time of the finding of the court. In addition, the court or magistrate shall order the owner of that animal to do 1 or more of the following:
(a) If the animal that has been found to be a dangerous animal is of the canis familiaris species, have an identification number tattooed upon the animal, at the owner’s expense, by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The identification number shall be assigned to the animal by the Michigan department of agriculture and shall be noted in its records pursuant to Act No. 309 of the Public Acts of 1939, being sections 287.301 to 287.308 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. The identification number shall be tattooed on the upper inner left rear thigh of the animal by means of indelible or permanent ink.
(b) Take specific steps, such as escape proof fencing or enclosure, including a top or roof, to ensure that the animal cannot escape or nonauthorized individuals cannot enter the premises.
(c) Have the animal sterilized.
(d) Obtain and maintain liability insurance coverage sufficient to protect the public from any damage or harm caused by the animal.
(e) Take any other action appropriate to protect the public.
History: 1988, Act 426, Eff. Mar. 30, 1989.
287.323 Offenses and Penalties
Sec. 3. (1) The owner of an animal that meets the definition of a dangerous animal in section 1(a) that causes the death of a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, punishable under section 321 of the Michigan penal code, Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931, being section 750.321 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.
(2) If an animal that meets the definition of a dangerous animal in section 1(a) attacks a person and causes serious injury other than death, the owner of the animal is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years, a fine of not less than $2,000.00, or community service work for not less than 500 hours, or any combination of these penalties.
(3) If an animal previously adjudicated to be a dangerous animal attacks or bites a person and causes an injury that is not a serious injury, the owner of the animal is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, a fine of not less than $250.00 nor more than $500.00, or community service work for not less than 240 hours, or any combination of these penalties.
(4) If the owner of an animal that is previously adjudicated to be a dangerous animal allows the animal to run at large, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, a fine of not less than $250.00 nor more than $500.00, or community service work for not less than 240 hours, or any combination of these penalties.
(5) The court may order a person convicted under this section to pay the costs of the prosecution.
History: 1988, Act 426, Eff. Mar. 30, 1989.
Finally, one other pet peeve that has existed before, but is now once again rearing its ugly head is the abject refusal of my fellow citizens to follow the motor vehicle code regarding sharing the road with cyclists. I guess I should not be surprised, considering the absolute ignorance and bigotry displayed by so many in this state recently…open defiance of the shelter in place orders by protesting with firearms IN THE STATE CAPITOL building, of all places…open defiance of those orders increasing as people leave their homes without masks and congregate in large numbers without social distancing…the murder of a security guard yesterday whose only “Crime” was simply enforcing the order by refusing entrance to a store by a customer who attempted to enter without a mask. The customer’s husband and son returned 20 minutes later and shot the guard in the back of the head, execution style, instantly killing the father of 8 children.
This sense of self entitlement defies what these people claim as their constitutional right to liberty. Liberty has always been accompanied by a price to be paid for the common good – with such words imbedded in the Constitution. As this crisis lingers – in part because so many idiots refuse to believe in simple science and insist that their own “liberties” are superior to the rest of society – motorists have returned to the road in increasing numbers and are refusing to obey the slow down and yield a minimum of three feet to cyclist law passed by our state legislature over a year ago. Simple laws of physics should be able to tell you what will happen if you fail to observe this most basic protection to a fellow human being. The minimum distance stated by the law allows a certain mitigation of the “slipstream” or “drafting” effect created by a passing vehicle moving at a faster rate of speed and occupying a larger physical space. When such an object passes a cyclist, the lighter, and smaller vehicle and operator is literally “sucked” into the vacuum of air space created and can easily be thrown under the wheels of the vehicle, or blown off the road. Unfortunately, here in Michigan, I have witnessed our state police and county sheriff patrols refuse to enforce this order. Just over a month ago I was passed by four vehicles in a row, each giving me less than 18 inches of space (causing my wheels to begin to wobble), and tailing each other by less than two car lengths. The last vehicle in the line of four was a state police patrol car who did NOTHING to intercept the other three vehicles preceding him.
Additionally, the three foot law allows us both the opportunity to react to road conditions. While your 2000+ pound vehicle may be able to absorb potholes and debris in the roadside easily, mine will not. Given Michigan’s seriously deteriorating road infrastructure issues (we frankly have the worst roads in the country) I frequently have to swerve to avoid potholes, dangerous seams, etc., in the roads that would cause major issues to my equipment and person if taken head on. My tires cost at least $60 each, the tubes another 10, the wheels anywhere from $800 to $2000 a pair, and the frames from $300 to $5000 to replace if cracked. Aside from the damages to my bicycle, if I am forced to ride into a pothole, large seam, or debris, I am likely to crash and fall into your vehicle’s path. As a motorist, and frankly, as a decent human being, I know it is my responsibility to be aware of all road conditions and those I share it with at all times. When I see a cyclist, I look ahead to see possible impediments to their path as well as mine. Only when the road is clear, I slow down and move COMPLETELY into the other lane to pass at a slower rate of speed, and then retake the lane when I have allowed sufficient distance to insure the cyclist will not encounter my slipstream. If the path ahead is not clear, or the road is winding, I bide my time at a safe distance behind the cyclist and do not endanger them by honking my horn, creeping up on them, revving my engine, etc. Quite frankly, the 3 to 10 seconds you may “save” by waiting to pass me cannot be worth the lives you would ruin by causing me to crash or be sucked under your wheels. Remember, my cameras will capture the incident and will be used by my attorney – or my children’s – in civil and criminal proceedings against you.
I would like to think that all of my readers (all six or so of you!) are also decent human beings and already observe the practices I have mentioned. You also, are then, aware of my former occupation and so I call on you to educate your children, your neighbors, friends, and colleagues about these issues. For my sake. For your sake. For societies’ sake. For their 401K’s sake!