There’s an age-old saying that goes, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” But, with all due respect to waterfowl, what’s good for the most pedigreed pup is also good for the most faithful of farm dogs.

The issue of responsible pet ownership made headlines recently when Judge Miguel Martinez ruled in favour of RM of Meadow Lake resident Renée Marshall when she sued her neighbours, Mike and Shelley Rediron, for negligence following an incident that occurred last year on her property southeast of the community. On Feb. 26, 2015, a pack of dogs ventured onto Marshall’s land and chased her favourite horse into a fence. The animal suffered a broken leg and had to be put down as a result.

In any rural setting, it’s not uncommon to see dogs of all shapes and sizes roaming the countryside, but – unlike the City of Meadow Lake and other urban communities – the RM does not currently have an animal control bylaw in place or a dog catcher in its employ. This is completely understandable considering the overall geographical size of the municipality. It’s just not feasible for one person to travel around the RM day-after-day, fetching stray pets who’ve left the familiar surroundings of home in search of action, adventure and whatever else it is dogs like to do for fun.

Still, a lack of legislation and the natural instinct for dogs to run free do not justify what happened to Marshall’s horse. Although she was able to trace the dogs back to their owners and a judge agreed restitution was in order for her loss, there’s a much better way of addressing such situations without involving the court system. That solution is to simply prevent such incidents from happening in the first place. In short, all pet owners – no matter if it’s the city or the country they call home – need to act responsibly.

If your dogs have a tendency to wander when left to their own devices, tie them up or keep them confined. It may not seem like the most humane thing to do, but at least it’ll keep the dogs safe and the neighbours happy. It also beats the possibility of people taking matters into their own hands and using violent means to deal with strays. Certainly the latter approach won’t do anything to mend fences between neighbours either.

Whether someone lives in a town or city or on a farm or acreage, all communities will continue to have their fair share of both responsible and irresponsible pet owners. The important thing to remember is to treat the animals with kindness and love while still providing a certain level of respect to your fellow man.