On Oct. 24, Nutter found a dead rabbit in her mailbox. She filed a report with the sheriff’s office but never learned who was responsible.
On Oct. 31, Nutter received a call saying that her 11-year-old spitz and labrador mix, Daisy, had returned with a bullet hole in her chest. Two weeks later, Nutter’s 13-year-old daughter was riding one of the family horses when their 9-year-old spitz, Meg, ran yelping back to the farm, blood streaming from her chest. Despite the gunshot wounds, but both dogs lived.
“Most domesticated dogs are part of the family, so when you shoot my dog you’re shooting a part of my family,” Nutter said.
Nutter believes that both dogs were shot by a neighbor, who allegedly complained that the dogs were getting into his garbage. Despite Nutter’s protests, Carroll County’s code of ordinances gives county residents the right to protect property against unrestrained animals.
“Carroll County has a leash law, which means pets are not allowed to run free,” said Capt. Shane Taylor of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. “They have to be on a leash, chained or inside a fenced enclosure.”
Sec. 14-53 of the Carroll County code states that “an owner of a dog, cat, or any animal shall restrain the animal in such a manner, whether by leash, fence or other appropriate enclosure (fence, pen, etc.), which will ensure that the animal is contained within the boundaries of the property owned or leased by the owner of the animal. In all residentially zoned districts (including subdivisions and mobile home parks and/or subdivisions) dogs, cats or any other animal shall be actively restrained as provided for in this article in order to prevent their leaving the property of their owner, unless the animal is under the direct supervision and control of the owner of the animal or his designee.”
All of Nutter’s dogs are kept in a screened-in area at night but are free to roam the 17-acre farm during the day. She plans to install an electric fence to keep all of her animals on her property but said she wished the person who shot her pets had come to her first.
“I knew there was a leash law, but at the same time, I’ve been there for 15 years and my dogs have not been a problem,” Nutter said. “I have never had a complaint about them.”
Taylor said that while the ordinance allows property owners to defend property against an animal that is placing the individual’s property or pets at risk, Carroll County residents do not have the right to injure animals at will.
“People can’t just shoot a dog because it’s running loose,” he said. “It needs to be damaging their property. ... It’s not a free license to kill every dog running across your property. Then they could be held liable for animal cruelty.”
Taylor said that most cases like this involve dogs, rather than other animals, but that it is rare for neighbors to shoot each other’s pets.
“It’s a rarity,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of people killing other people’s pets.”
Taylor said that if a loose animal is destroying property, the best way to handle it is to call animal control during the day or 911 at night. Nutter, on the other hand, wishes the call had come to her.
“All he would have had to do to me was call, say ‘I don’t appreciate your dogs being on my property,’” Nutter said. “I would have gotten the fence up immediately. I had no idea.”