The old saying, "Good fences make good neighbors," has found its corollary in Winfield where inadequate fences and unrestrained dogs have turned neighbors against each other.
Valerie Rowell's story in today's edition of The News-Times spells out the latest, ugly episode in what has become a feud between rural families. Gale Brice shot and killed one of Jerry Dingman's dogs after she said that dog and another of Dingman's killed one of her pets on her property.
It's shocking that this sort of dispute could lead to gunplay, but based on the number of complaints in the neighborhood, both homeowners have plenty to answer for - and have, through repeated warnings and citations for allowing their dogs to roam the neighborhood.
Perhaps that will improve as county officials have recently changed the way these type cases are handled. Gone are the days when serial offenses of wandering pets resulted mostly in repeated finger-wagging. Code enforcement now handles these complaints, and homeowners get a verbal warning only on first offense. Second offense draws a written warning; the third offense gets a citation and fine. Period.
It's about time. Sure, it's tough on pet owners like Dingman, who has repeatedly reinforced his fences only to have his dogs pull a Houdini act. It happens. But the fact remains that homeowners are responsible for keeping their animals in their control and on their own property, whether those animals are dogs or cats or cows.
That law protects neighbors' property, whether it is their lawns or their own pets. And it keeps animals safe from passing vehicles - and gun-toting neighbors.
Perhaps stricter enforcement of that law will provide the fence that improves a lot of neighborhoods.
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