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Pet Wars – Mediating Conflict Involving Man’s Best Friend

Conflict Resolution is a veteran field of study. The use of creative and peaceful ways to handle conflict amongst individuals who waDog with boxing glovesnt to be heard and express their interests gives many people the opportunity to help resolve and manage the conflict they encounter daily with each other. Strategies and methods such as mediation, conflict coaching and other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practices are used often to resolve disputes involving people but, what happens if the issues to resolve are about your pet?  Yes, that’s right I said your pet. Pets are often the source of conflicts for the people that love and own them, more than we would like to admit. Our beloved pets are often considered “family members” and can even be included in your will. Think about it

Have you ever been in a divorce? You split up all the furniture, other belongings and the money but the dog you brought with your partner is stuck in the middle. Who gets the much-loved dog, cat or even the horse? Or maybe, your hyperactive dog loves to play outside, chase squirrels and bark at everything it sees keeping you up at night. The nice neighbor reports you to the city for nuisance noise and you get a warning to control your pet. Another example is the next door family farm with so many clucking chickens that the noise and smell make you ill.  A common conflict involving animals is the person with disability(s) who has a service animal. The service animal is very important to the owner as the service animal assists the owner in activities of daily life. The person with a disability often encounters challenges and conflict as they enter public facilities, service establishments and the insensitive individuals unaware of disability-rights and the laws that protect the person with a disability.

The most extreme example of conflict escalating to violence involving someone’s pets is the recent Dog-Poop trial in Dallas, Texas. If only this situation had been handled through community mediation much, much sooner people’s lives would have been saved. Imagine all the people in conflict that involve animals.

So, how do you resolve sticky issues regarding animals?

  1. Have an honest and constructive conversation about your concerns without attacking the other person. If nothing changes, then
  2. Find a professional conflict practitioner or even a mediator that is neutral regardless of whether they are a pet lover themselves. Someone who can respect the non-pet owner as well as the pet owner.
  3. Identify your resources and how to handle situations involving animals. For example, know what your city’s ordinances are and the fines for nuisance noise and barking dogs. Understand your rights and the rules when it comes to community space such as dog parks, apartment living and pet-friendly restaurants. Learn about disability rights and how to fairly treat and engage with people who use service animals.

Be courageous! Do not be afraid to exercise and use your resources to prevent further escalation. Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes focus on all participants’ needs. In these cases, the needs revolve around animal conflict.

To learn more about Pet Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution visit Hamilton Law And Mediation, PLLC and Dispute Thy Neighbor: Hire A Mediator. Also check out our recent podcast Another Arrow in Your Dispute Resolution Quiver: Animal Conflicts and Alternative Dispute Resolution or Nipped in the Bud, Not in the Butt.

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program



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Nipped in the Bud-Not in the Butt

The holidays are upon us along with the hustle, bustle and stress that come along with the various expectations, values and traditions we hold dear. You want to spend time with your family and friends which often requires traveling and visiting each other’s homes. But what if you want to bring your beloved pet with you…they are family members too…right? Or, if you have a gathering at your home, you would love it if everyone embraced your pet with love and care. When pet owners and non pet owners disagree about the inclusion of pets in holiday gatherings, then conflict can be lurking in the corner.
In our show, Nipped in the Bud – Not in the Butt, Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton will join me to discuss how she uses alternative dispute resolution in the emotionally charged venue of conflicts between people and animals. By using mediation and collaborative practice, clients become part of the solution process, not powerless bystanders. The process respects the emotions of the people in the conflict over an animal and recognizes the power emotions can have over the parties.


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