Jul 29, 2014
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Dog Attack Sparks Discussion on Efficacy of Invisible Fences

Though industry data says invisible fences are 99.5 percent effective, some local dog owners say they don't view the invisible fence as a standalone, foolproof product.

Dog Attack Sparks Discussion on Efficacy of Invisible Fences Dog Attack Sparks Discussion on Efficacy of Invisible Fences Dog Attack Sparks Discussion on Efficacy of Invisible Fences Dog Attack Sparks Discussion on Efficacy of Invisible Fences


New Canaan and area invisible fence users say they view the barriers as deterrents to dogs running off-property rather than absolute prevention measures in and of themselves.

“It works. It’s not foolproof,” New Canaan resident Karla Walsh said on a recent morning as she exited Spencer’s Run at Waveny with her 18-month-old German shepherd dog, Harley. She was joined by Darien residents Marty Hendrickson (with 1-year-old golden retriever, Charlie) and Jennie Foresta (with 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog, Bella).

The dog owners said it’s a good idea to bolster the invisible fence with real fences in yards back up to open space in order to keep out wildlife that potentially could compel a canine to breach the barrier.

Hendrickson said she never leaves her dog unattended outside with just the invisible fence.

“It’s a deterrent,” Foresta said.

The comments follow a widely discussed incident from two weeks ago, when a pair of dogs on a property that’d had an invisible fence installed got out and mauled a neighbor’s miniature donkey. The dogs’ owner was bitten by the donkey as she pulled her dogs off. The company that installed the invisible fence said the system was known to have been down for days prior to the attack.

That incident prompted emotionally charged discussion, ranging from well-wishes for the donkey and woman to outrage at dog owners and Patch readers’ relative fellow-feeling for the human versus the animals involved.

One topic that several account-holders addressed is the efficacy of invisible fences themselves. Representatives from invisible fence companies describe the fences as 99.5 percent effective, with the marginal failure rate due to failure to replace batteries and wire breaks such as through landscaping work.

Dog bites are not rare in New Canaan and happen for all kinds of reasons. Office Mary Ann Kleinschmitt of the New Canaan Police Department’s animal control unit told Patch one benefit of invisible fences is that they tend to keep dogs on property when the dogs get out of the house by mistake—such as when landscapers or other workers open up garage doors to get equipment, for example.

Here are snippets of what some users said about invisible fences:

  • C. Hickey: Any dog above 1ft tall should NOT be allowed an electric fence. Anyone who has a dog, especially a bigger one, knows the electric fence is a poor defense in keeping a dog on your property (and as people never realize, it doesn't prevent other animals from entering your property and possibly attacking.) Isn't this New Canaan? I thought people had money to afford fencing...
  • NCFamily: My question would be "were the Huskies wearing their IF collars at the time of the attack and were the batteries fresh?"
  • Four Jacks: Dogs should be on leashes or behind fences at all times. I'm so tired of hearing "oh, he's friendly", while some dog is jumping on me or my kids. Not everyone is a dog lover!
  • Vikki Foley Boyd: If this owner chooses to own farm animals and dogs, it is her responsibility to build adequate fencing to protect her animals.
    E-fences are worthless especially for strong breeds when pain is not a deterrent … An E-fence may work with a Poodle but not dogs who have been bred to endure living in harsh elements whilst mushing for 8 hours.
  • Kelly F: I love all animals, so feel that the fault lies with the dog owner. At the very least, she should be required to put up a secure and substantial "real" fence, and pay for the medical care of the donkey.
  • Baffled Resident: From my observations over the years, e-fences work well … However, the problems occur when: A. The owners don't remember to change the batteries. B. The owners remove the collar to take the dog off the property, and then forget to place it back on the dog.
  • Laura Stabell: I would never trust invisible fence! I have double fencing-front and back are both fenced separately, he is in the back so he cant bark at dogs on the road.This or a strong deer net or 6' wire fence PLUS an electric fence or invisible fence is the only way to go. Luckily he is now old and slowed down but many years of stress AFTER he was attacked by an aggressive male who was walked off leash by a psycho owner. I never let him off leash either (but had same loose dog attack us on the road after).
  • Amy K: There is another problem with invisible fences other than a failed battery or forgetting to put the collar on. Smart persistent dogs will charge the fence line, and once they cross it and the shock ends, they have learned that they just have to move quickly through the zone.

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