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March 12, 2013 7:46 am

EDITORIAL: Dealing with dogs, protecting livestock

Written by Tessa Schweigert

When coyotes, wolves or grizzlies prey on livestock, Wyomingites often agree over what should be done. When a neighbor’s dog wanders on a farm or ranch, the issue is more gray for many of us.



It can quickly become a divisive issue among neighbors. To one, the dog is a beloved companion. To another, the dog is a threat to their livestock and livelihood.

Under Wyoming law, shooting a dog is legal if it is killing or threatening livestock. It’s important to protect that right for livestock producers threatened by dogs. In some cases, dogs are as bad as wildlife predators. For example, dogs in the Riverton area killed 44 sheep and injured more last October when they entered a corral, attacked and ran the sheep against the railings.

While killing a vicious dog is the clear solution in some cases, other situations are not as black and white.

The recent story of a dog surviving, incredibly, after it was shot and then burned in the Worland area stirred emotions and debate around Wyoming.

The dog was in a neighbor’s chicken coop, threatening the birds. After shooting the dog and thinking he was dead, the neighbor proceeded to douse him with gasoline and burn him, even after seeing the dog’s tag identifying him as someone’s pet.

The story raises questions about ethics, and it serves as a lesson for landowners in similar situations.

A proposed measure before the Legislature in 2002 would have required people to make a reasonable effort to identify and contact the dog’s owner if they shot a pet. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the Wyoming Senate, but later died in a House committee.

Wyoming lawmakers may want to reconsider adding that stipulation to state law. Communication between neighbors would create a better understanding and may help prevent painful stories like the one in Worland. If a neighbor’s dog is shot for harming livestock, it only seems right to let them know, even if that’s a difficult call to make.

It’s a complicated issue, and we’ve heard of cases where shooting a dog was absolutely justified as well as those where it seemed unreasonable.

Some landowners shoot dogs they perceive as a threat. They don’t want to wait until the dog starts killing animals, for fear that they will lose valuable livestock and may never actually catch the dog in the act.

However, some landowners have been known to shoot any dog that wanders on their property. It’s tough to see how the law can apply in those cases.

In the end, it’s important for pet owners to keep their dogs on their property, even if that means a shock collar or expensive fencing. Livestock producers also should consider talking with their neighbors about any problems.

Oftentimes, both livestock and dogs are valued. Working together may ensure both survive.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link March 18, 2013 2:33 pm posted by Jon

    Your last part is the only real thing that matters. Contain your animals to your area and you wont have to deal with it.

    I've seen and had "pets" kill livestock and other domestic animals on my property or ranches I'm worked on. Lots of "pets" look alike and can be mistaken for a know problem animal and shot on site. Landowners don't need more hoops to protect thier investment. Contain your pets for thier sake and the ranchers.

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