Today, though, I actually heard advice requested on a topic that, in person, I wasn't really comfortable giving. Not at work anyway. Or maybe not at all. Advice that I give, here or in person, may not be taken as legal advice. If you actually have this kind of problem, you should contact a lawyer, discuss with police, at the very least call your vet or even your breeder!
The Disclaimer: I am not responsible for what you do with the information and discussion that you take away from here. I'm merely airing concerns.
So, what is is that has me bothered?
A woman came to the library today to get some things photocopied. She said, and this is paraphrased, "My dog bit somebody. I told the guy not to play with him, because he's a nipper, but he didn't listen. His vaccine expired on May 23 so of course he bit somebody on May 30. Do you think that's going to be a problem? I already gave him to my ex-husband, because obviously I can't handle him. He's a black cocker spaniel, I love him to death. How do I get him out of my name?"
What I said? "They may want you to quarantine him." And also "If you have him registered with the AKC, the transfer of ownership is with that paperwork."
I thought a number of other things, however.
The first thing was about the lapse of the rabies vaccine. Elka has never had an adverse reaction to any of her vaccines, so that was a red flag to me, and a concern for the gentleman bitten. There was a free rabies clinic in my town last week, just so we're clear that such things are available in my area should income be an issue. I really think that we've been schooled to think that RABIES LURKS EVERYWHERE, and the slightest gap in vaccine will let it slip in. For one, I'm sure this isn't true, though there have been reported cases of animals in my county testing positive for rabies, most recently a raccoon in April. Some dogs do have an adverse reaction to vaccines, though, as I've learned in heartbreaking detail on the Champion of My Heart blog. Barring vaccination, either by choice or necessity, there is a titer test. What that means is the animal's blood is tested for a concentration of antibodies to a disease. Some people feel that even every three years is too often to vaccinate for something, and they titer instead. The laws on whether titering is a legal replacement for the vaccine differ from state to state, and I am not by any means telling you not to vaccinate; I'm telling you to educate yourself, talk to your vet, and make decisions that make the best sense for you and your dog. Legally.
My next thought was that if your dog is a known nipper, why would you put him in a situation where he could exercise this freely? If you tell a guy not to play with your dog, mean it. Remove your dog. Interpose yourself between the stranger and your dog. Dogs suffer daily from this. It's a cocker spaniel, not a pit bull or another BigScaryMeanDog like a Doberman or German Shepherd, so animal control, or whoever (I don't know if anybody was called, even) might just let it slide. But really. Be your dog's advocate. It's what you're there for!
My final thought was not so clearly defined as the ones prior. Oh, you want the dog "in his name" so it's not your problem anymore? Oh, you haven't taken responsibility for the dog's nippiness, so you'll just pass the poor guy off? She did mention that she paid a whole $450 for him, and that she was going to call the breeder to see how to put the dog in somebody else's name. I'm sure (sarcasm alert!) that the breeder will be delighted to receive this call.
So in conclusion: please take responsibility for your dog, be it socially or medically. Really. Who else is going to?