Should Dog Owners Be Charged With Murder When Their Dogs Attack and Kill?

The reason why I would like to comment on the story being reported out of Michigan is for personal reasons.  I live in a nice gated community and presently have great neighbors.  But having great neighbors was not always the case.  A few years ago, I had neighbors who would let their pit bulls out of the yard.  By 'let' I do not mean they let them roam free; instead, they would not keep their side gate closed and the dogs would get out.  The neighbors knew this and still refused to fix their fence.  That is, until one day I fixed it for them (by nailing it shut) after one of the dogs got out and chased a little old lady up and down the street.  I had to force the dog back into its backyard with a shovel.  Scary stuff, especially since I have two young children. 

My story is a common one.  A Michigan couple is being charged with second-degree murder after their two aggressive 100-pound dogs mauled a jogger to death. The charge carries a life-in-prison term. Evidently, the two dogs had a history of biting people. The dogs were kept in a chain link enclosure but they had dug underneath the enclosure repeatedly.

The story is a sad but legally interesting one.  The facts beg the question of whether a person can be held responsible of the acts of their dogs if the owner did not intentionally do any harm. Obviously, if the owners used the dogs as weapons and intended the harm then we would have no problem punishing them accordingly.  But what about when the dogs crawl under a fence and cause harm? Of course the owners were negligent (they should have prevented this from happening) but charging them as murderers will be a tough sell to a jury.  Murder requires that the owners acted with the specific intent to kill or with the reckless disregard for human life.  I am not sure I feel comfortable giving people life in prison for the acts of their pets unless it can be shown that the owner's actions were intentional.