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It’s a dog’s life for Lexy

December 3, 2007

by Ivan Raconteur

She has never sunk her teeth into human flesh, but she has been branded an outlaw and must wear a muzzle when she is outdoors.

The controversy surrounding Lexy, the Lester Prairie rottweiler that was classified as a dangerous dog, has been the subject of some spirited discussion recently.

Some say the city over-reacted. Others say the city did what it had to do.

Some people claim that Lexy is a victim, and is being judged by her breed and by her appearance.

I know what that is like. I understand how Lexy must feel, because even though I can be a (reasonably) nice guy if the spirit moves me, people who have not had the pleasure of getting to know me sometimes react with fear and apprehension when they meet me. I can live with that.

The issue in Lexy’s case is that, while she has not actually taken a bite out of anyone, she has frightened people – people on public property. It is a matter of where the rights of one individual end, and the rights of another begin.

Before we jump on some emotional bandwagon, it might be prudent to step back and think about who the real victims and villains are in Lexy’s case.

Consider first, the Lester Prairie residents who reported that they were frightened by Lexy.

These people were walking down a public street when they were confronted by a large dog running at them and barking in an aggressive manner.

Fear seems a reasonable and healthy reaction in such circumstances, so the residents are victims, not villains.

Next, we have the Lester Prairie Police Department.

Despite claims from Lexy’s owner that the police (and everyone else) lied to him and hounded his dog, we must stick to the facts.

The police received reports from residents, and they were obligated to investigate these reports.

After the first report of aggressive action by the dog, the police department sent the owner a letter advising him that Lexy had been deemed potentially dangerous.

A police officer met with the owner and explained some simple steps he could take to keep Lexy from being classified as dangerous.

The matter could (and should) have ended right there.

The police were doing their job. They were neither victims or villains in this case.

The owner chose to ignore the advice. He crumpled up the letter and threw it on the ground in front of Lexy, who promptly ate it.

Before we interpret her action as that of a scofflaw, we must remember that she is a dog. Dogs don’t read letters, and she was simply being a dog.

This brings us to the mayor and city council.

After Lexy had been classified as potentially dangerous, and after the owner failed to take steps to correct the situation, the police department received additional reports about the dog’s behavior.

As a result, the police department classified Lexy as dangerous. The owner contested this finding in a hearing before the city council.

After hearing testimony from the residents, the police, and the dog’s owner, the council upheld the finding that Lexy was a dangerous dog.

This was not an easy decision, and it does not make them villains.

They took a lot of time to listen to all sides of the issue. Some of the council members have dogs of their own, and they are not part of some anti-canine conspiracy. They are not out to have anyone’s dog killed.

It is true that their decision may have been influenced by news reports of attacks by other dogs in other cities, but we must remember that the council is charged with looking after the interests of all Lester Prairie residents.

The council expressed concern that the city could face significant liability if it were to overturn the dangerous dog designation, and if the dog were later to attack someone.

The council, and indeed all of us, are victims of living in a litigious society where some among us have an “if it moves, sue it” mentality. We may not like it, but it is a fact of life.

Lexy is a victim, but she is not, as some would have us believe, a victim simply because of her breed.

If a person is confronted by a large dog of any breed demonstrating aggressive behavior, he may well fear for his safety. The only person who made an issue of Lexy’s breed during the hearing was the dog’s owner.

Lexy is the victim of an owner who failed to consider the rights of others, and, as a result, failed to protect his own dog.

Had he taken reasonable steps to control his dog, there would be no issue.

The owner says Lexy is a harmless, friendly animal, and this may be true.

But, by his own admission, the owner not only allowed, but wanted her to run into the street to meet people, because he believes once people get to know her, they will like her.

What he does not understand is that this is not his decision to make. Other city residents may not want Lexy’s society thrust upon them, and that is their right.

It may be a dog’s life for Lexy, but her problems began not when she was born a rottweiler, but when her owner allowed her to leave his property and frighten people who were minding their own business.

In civilized society, actions have consequences. Lexy’s actions may have been simply the actions of a dog being a dog. Her owner’s actions, in allowing Lexy’s activities to affect others, are the real source of the problem.

The city is not picking on Lexy or her owner. They are asking them to abide by the same rules everyone else must follow.

I mentioned earlier that some people find me scary. I can sit at home and look frightening all I want, but if I were to run out in the street and frighten children on bicycles and young mothers pushing strollers, I would face some consequences, just as Lexy is facing consequences for her actions.

If we need to find a villain in all of this, we should look not at the neighbors, the police, the city council, or, indeed, even at Lexy, but at the person at the other end of her leash.

Lexy’s owner has requested a slot on the agenda for the Monday, Dec. 10 council meeting, so the story is not over yet.