Damages for Injuries Caused
by Invisible Fence Sought for Dog

Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio — A couple who says their dog was injured by an invisible fence is going to court to try and recover damages for emotional distress they say the animal suffered.

The lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court by Andrew and Alyce Pacher, of Vandalia, who identify themselves as "pet guardians" of Boomer. The lawsuit, which refers to Boomer as a plaintiff, requests damages of more than $25,000.

Also on the side of Boomer, a 4-year-old male golden retriever, is attorney Paul Leonard, a former lieutenant governor and ex-mayor of Dayton. Leonard says he's an animal lover hoping to upgrade the legal status of dogs in Ohio.

Leonard said Boomer suffered psychological damage from second-degree burns he received when he tried to run through the Pachers' invisible fence.

An invisible fence is an electrical wire buried in the ground. The dog wears a special collar that shocks the animal if it wanders beyond the fence.

Attorney Scott Oxley, who represents the fence company, said companion animals are considered personal property under Ohio law.

"This (lawsuit) was filed by Boomer. That's how I read it," Oxley said. "It's my opinion that it's clear dogs cannot sue under Ohio law."

Leonard acknowledged that there is no precedent in Ohio for an animal to have an attorney represent it in court.

"That's one of the principles of law we're going to ask the court to change," Leonard said. "This is a lawsuit where we are trying to plow some new ground."

The lawsuit, which was filed against the Invisible Fence Co. of Dayton, is the first case for Leonard's newly formed Center for Animal Law and Advocacy.

Leonard said he hopes Boomer's case will put pressure on the Legislature to toughen laws against animal cruelty. Leonard said animal-friendly legislation gets little or no serious consideration by lawmakers.

"Right now in Ohio, animals are recognized as property," Leonard said. "Our argument will be that animals certainly don't have the constitutional rights of a human being, ... but they should have rights somewhere between inanimate property and human beings."

Boomer repeatedly escaped from the Pachers' back yard after the fence was installed. When the couple complained, a consultant for the fence company advised them to use two collars on the retriever, and the consultant adjusted the voltage on both collars, according to the lawsuit.

Later that same day, the couple's two children heard Boomer whining on the front porch and let him inside, where the animal collapsed on the floor. Several days later, the Pachers discovered open wounds on the dog's neck, the lawsuit states.

Several messages requesting comment were left Thursday with the company.

It's not the first time Leonard has been involved in an animal-related case.

He said he was able to get charges dismissed against a suburban Kettering family accused of keeping a wild animal without a permit. The family had adopted a baby raccoon after its mother died when a tree trimmer cut down the animal's home.