At about 7:45 p.m. on Monday night, Nov. 23, 2015, John Fischer heard his three Chihuahuas barking. He was in the kitchen. The dogs were in a bedroom with his week-old granddaughter. The front door had been left open. A coyote took one of the Chihuahuas. Fischer has spoken about his concern about coyotes on various news media. He has written a long letter to the Coastline Pilot. It is that letter which is most shocking.
Coyotes do attack. According to the letter there have been 35 coyote attacks in Southern California. That might be a good reason to take safety precautions. There are other reasons. There are other types of wildlife in Laguna Beach: raccoons, skunks, opossums and rats. These could easily enter through an open window or door as could stray cats or dogs, or even a pack of dogs. Other dogs can kill small dogs. Skunks or bats could have rabies. Any of the animals could have parasites that would not be good for either the Chihuahuas or the week-old baby.
Besides the possible entry by wildlife and feral or loose animals, there are other good and more pressing reasons for keeping one’s doors and windows closed and locked. According to Trulia.com, there are various crimes within 1 miles of homes in the 500 block of Oak Street. On Nov. 27, there was a theft (Call ID #: 541591873). On the same day, a burglary alarm went off. On the 26th, there were three reports of burglary alarms. An auto-involved disturbance was reported. On the 25 and the 21, there were reports of suspicious persons or circumstances. Other people within a one-mile radius don’t feel safe enough to keep their doors and windows open. We know this because they have burglar alarms.
In 2013, the latest year information is available on City-Data.com, there were three rapes, five robberies, 33 assaults, 87 burglaries, and 356 thefts. If we look over the last five years (2009-2013), we see two murders, 31 rapes, 35 robberies, 256 assaults, and 292 burglaries in the city of Laguna Beach alone. If we looked at all of Southern California, the numbers would be much higher. For these reasons, it would seem wise to lock one’s doors and windows. One could have a security screen on windows or doors.
Coyotes may be an increasing problem, but in this case, the Fischers were shockingly careless. While the Fischers might want to give the illusion that Laguna Beach is a relatively safe neighborhood, they have neighbors who have burglar alarms. The past has shown that leaving the doors unlocked even in the relative safety of the countryside can be unwise: Richard Hickcock and and Perry Smith reportedly entered through the unlocked doors of the Clutter home while the Clutter family slept. They killed the four people there; Truman Capote wrote about the 1959 Kansas murder in his “In Cold Blood.”
Previous reports had indicated that the doors being left open was accidental and not a habitual thing. In the Los Angeles Times, it was reported: “Typically, Fischer explained, he closes up the small cottage around dusk to keep out the coyotes he and his wife see around their property. In this case, he forgot to shut a pair of double doors that lead from the bedroom to the yard.”
In his opinion piece, Fischer justifies his open door policy as being something his wife likes. “It’s one of our favorite things about Laguna Beach. She gets claustrophobic if there isn’t a window or door open, especially at night.” Being foolish is their choice. Anything could enter at night with the doors open. If the doors are left open, then the dogs could easily be outside and been taken by a hawk. Would the Fischers then insist all the hawks and birds of prey be trapped?
With all the things that could have happened, the death of one dog isn’t so bad. In this respect, the Fischers were lucky. In the city or the country it is unwise to let a small dog roam free or leave it unprotected in the day or night. That Chihuahua is more defenseless than a cat that might escape by climbing up a tree. Yet if you allow your cat to roam at night, one is taking the chance that it will be hit by a car or killed by a coyote. Likewise, if you leave your door open, you are taking a calculated risk. Crying about the consequences afterward seems disingenuous.
Fischer writes: “Coyotes should not be here for the very reason that their natural behavior is a danger to our pets, our children and our neighborhood. They need to be removed. Preferably not euthanized, but caught and taken back to where their behavior is appropriate. We were not made to cohabit.” He forgets that coyotes also keep the skunk, rabbit, rat, squirrel, opossum and feral cat population down. He also forgets that as a pet owner and grandfather, he has responsibilities, too. One of those responsibilities is locking one’s doors and windows.