When a Good Samaritan sees a dog suffering in extreme heat or cold, they are faced with a difficult choice at a moment’s notice. Do they call animal control, the police, or do they attempt to rescue the dog themselves? If a person sees a dog tethered outside, they have no way of knowing how long the dog has been there. People who care about the animal’s welfare may choose to err on the side of caution and rescue the dog. But what happens next can be a quagmire of potential conflict. As dogs are legally “property”, they are often chained in someone’s backyard, trapped in a car, or kept in inadequate shelter. Rescuing the dog therefore can involve trespass and damage to property. Even confronting an owner about their dog can lead to verbal or physical conflict, threatening good relations between neighbors. Mediation is a solution that can intervene to resolve conflict early on, either when a neighbor is concerned about the potential treatment of a dog or other animal, or after an animal has been rescued.

What Happens When You’ve Rescued a Dog from Extreme Conditions?

If you’re about to rescue a dog from extreme temperatures, you might be looking for a simple guideline to help you make a responsible, law abiding decision. Unfortunately this just doesn’t exist. Turning to the legal system to resolve conflicts over rescuing animals from extreme temperatures is a gamble that depends on what state you live in, and what action you have taken. Before you call your lawyer (and risk antagonizing the other party further), consider using mediation to resolve your dispute.

But wait, animal cruelty is a felony, so surely actions to protect animals are free from blame? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Yes, it’s true that animal cruelty is now a felony. In addition, many states have hot car laws to protect dogs during summer temperatures, and often these laws apply to cold weather temperatures as well. However laws are often in conflict and fail to cover a huge number of situations where animals are at risk. Even though 22 states have hot car laws, there are only a few states where it’s a felony to leave an animal in a hot car and where animal rescuers have immunity. In Delaware, for example, there’s a loophole that allows animals to be left in freezing temperatures if they’re unchained and have access to shelter. In New York State there is currently no maximum time a dog can be left outside, and the animal needs to show evidence of distress for neglect to be considered criminal. It’s safe to assume that evolving law on animal cruelty may not be on your side. If this is the case, you may have a conflict on your hands, which will require a calm approach that can prevent escalation. At Boileau Conflict Solutions we use a variety of approaches to facilitate conflict resolution. Some pet owners may simply not be aware of what is dangerous for an animal and may be disturbed by concerned bystanders taking matters into their own hands.

Mediation – A Better Solution

Even if the law is on your side and a pet owner has to pay a fine, it’s not certain that an animal owner won’t revert to treating an animal cruelly. The benefit of mediation is a sense of ownership over the conflict, which makes parties invested and committed to future change. In mediation, you might be able to ask your neighbor or a pet owner to build a shelter for their animal, or to keep their animal indoors after winter sets in. The law can only punish the rule that has been broken, and it can’t require more comprehensive actions or plan for the future. However you may be able to gain the trust of the animal owner by offering to take responsibility for any damage to property that has occurred while they agree to take better care of their animal. These kinds of mutually beneficial agreements are not possible when you are in a legal conflict with an animal owner.

How We Can Help

At Boileau Conflict Solutions we are a group of caring and well-educated mediators and negotiators with financial, legal and psychological backgrounds. We believe that animals are important stakeholders in our culture and should be represented fairly in conflict. The first step to successfully mediating a dispute involving animals is recognizing that animals have legitimate life interests that should be fairly considered. Unfortunately, in the legal system, animals are treated like property. This leads to conflict, with parties staking out extreme positions, and the animals as collateral in between. We use game theory, communication theory, psychoanalysis and the law to discover differing interests and disentangle the roots of conflict. We can intervene in urgent situations where violence is threatening, or to prevent violent solutions to animal conflict, such as euthanizing dogs. We are available seven days a week and at urgent notice at our offices in Boulder, CO, Irvine, CA, Campbell, CA and Beverly Hill, CA. We can also be reached via Zoom, Facetime and Telephone. Conflict resolution can be arranged remotely if needed. Please contact us now to see how we can help.

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