Meet the dog that hates smart meter installers

Watchdog Nation introduces you to another watchdog. His name is Riley. He’s 14 months old. A Vizsla. A real dog.


Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong shows you how to save money

Meet Riley. He doesn't care for smart meters.


From his point of view, it’s easy to see why he might have nipped at the gloved hand that reached over the fence in his back yard in Crowley, Texas.

The hand belonged to a smart-meter installer from Oncor Electric Delivery.

The installer’s other hand reached for his can of HALT! — a dog repellent spray — and fired away.

Riley ran back into his house. His eyes had swollen, and he wiped his head frantically on the carpet. His owners, Carter and Mandy Forbes, didn’t know what had happened. They rushed him to the vet, where the doctor explained that someone had apparently sprayed the dog with repellent. Riley was treated and released. The bill was $90.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong shows you how to save money

Back home after that, Mandy Forbes saw an Oncor installer in the neighborhood. She says she watched him take off his hard hat and butt a neighborhood Chihuahua that was barking at him in the head.

“Did you spray my dog?” she says she asked him.

“I haven’t done it in six months,” he replied.

“Do you have the right to do that?”

“Yes,” he answered. “If we feel threatened.”

She told him what Riley went through. He apologized but said it must have been the other installer working the neighborhood.

The Forbeses contacted Oncor. Days later, the company, which delivers electricity to much of North Texas, agreed to pay the medical bill.

Oncor doesn’t like to pay claims. But it did so in this case because the installer didn’t follow company policy.

“It was really in the spirit of customer service that we decided to pay this claim,” spokeswoman Megan Wright said. “There wasn’t anything legally that would make us pay this claim. But the fact that the meter installer did not knock before he installed the meter, which is not required by law, we felt that we wanted to pay this claim.”

The front-door knock, she said, is “something we like to do as a courtesy.”

When I pressed for more details, she said, “His body was not bit, but he said the dog’s teeth did make contact with his really thick gloves.”

Riley is fine. The installer, however, was reprimanded. “We tell our employees they have to put their safety first,” Wright said. “He had to do what he could to protect himself.”

Previously, I’ve reported how smart-meter installers have the right to climb backyard fences to change out meters and how, during the installation, the power to your home or business will go off for several minutes. I’ve recommended that you install surge protectors on valuable electronics and even consider purchasing a whole-house surge protector, usually best installed by an electrician. Oncor says it doesn’t pay claims on electronics that are ruined by power surges.

As far as dog bites, Oncor says installers have been bitten by dogs 12 times this year and were bitten 22 times last year.


Oncor provided this photo to show what its smart meter installers must endure.

Oncor provided this photo to show what its smart meter installers must endure.


Oncor provided me with photos of installers and the nasty bites they received. The photos are difficult to look at.

Oncor says it trains installers how to handle dogs without spraying them.

“We talk to them about how to spot the danger signs of aggression,” Wright said. “How to walk away. Move slowly and carefully. You don’t look in a dog’s eyes. You do not smile, because you don’t want to show your teeth. The dog will think that’s an aggressive move.

“Never run. You just stay calm and quiet. We also talk to installers about being aware of their surroundings, looking to see if there are any dog toys, dog runs, well-worn paths.

“Our meter readers also carry with them a stick with a little tennis ball on the end of it. The dog will oftentimes attack the tennis ball.

“No one wants to hurt an animal.”

Oncor has almost 2 million smart meters left to install. That’s a lot of back yards to enter — and a lot of watchdogs that have no idea what’s coming.


Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong shows you how to save money

Oncor provided this photo of a worker's pants to show the perils of going into the backyards of others.


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Dog bite stats

  • 2005 – 43 dog bites
  • 2006 – 31 dog bites
  • 2007 – 32 dog bites
  • 2008 – 27 dog bites
  • 2009 – 22 dog bites
  • As of 8/1/2010 – 12 dog bites

Source: ONCOR

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Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.

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