on dogs, chickens, and suburban sensibilities.

There’s a WaPo article in our local fish wrapper about the law regarding dogs who kill poultry. Current law allows for farmers to shoot dogs caught in the act of killing their poultry, and the article had a decidedly…oppositional slant. It tells the story of one Alan Taylor, a real estate developer who brought his two dogs to a farm with him on some business. He let his dogs roam free while chatting about planting grapevines (the article calls the dogs “pups”, even though the accompanying picture shows two fully-grown setter-type dogs in the 40-50lb. range), and they got shot while killing some farmer’s chickens. Both dogs survived, but the vet bills ran over $3,000. The author of the article is very sympathetic toward the dog owner, referring to laws that allow farmers to shoot livestock-killing animals as the “doggie death penalty”.

What really ticked me off about the article was the following quote from the dog owner:

“The simple solution for a rational person is to pick up a phone, but what this law allows people to do is to pick up a gun.”


Look, I own dogs, and I own chickens. I understand that your dogs are your companions, and I’d never shoot someone’s pet unless it was in the act of chewing on my kids or killing my animals. But you, sir, are an irresponsible asshole.

The simple solution for a rational person?

Let’s see here and take this simple solution step by step.

There’s a ruckus outside, and when I go to check, I see two dogs in my chicken coop, killing my laying hens. (Two dogs of any size can kill the entire flock in moments. Chickens don’t have much in the way of martial prowess.)

The simple solution (rational person and all that) is for me to run out there, try to separate two riled-up dogs in a killing frenzy from my birds without getting bitten in the process, then check for the tags they may or may not be wearing, keep them away from surviving chickens while I call the number on the tag, hope that someone picks up, and then secure two strange dogs until their owner can show up and collect them?

In other words, the onus of dealing with the situation falls squarely on me, and I should deal with it in the manner you deem rational, despite the fact that it’s your irresponsibility that caused the problem? You are responsible for your animals, and if they run free without supervision, anything that is done by them or to them is squarely on your head, not mine.

“Oh, but they’re just chickens, you stupid trigger-happy country bumpkin. You can just get new ones.”

Even assuming that you’d actually be willing to own up to your dogs’ trespassing and livestock killing instead of just going “Nuh uh! Wasn’t mine! Hank and Boo wouldn’t harm a fly!”, those chickens represent a higher dollar value than even that vet bill you had to pay. Sure, the chicks were maybe two bucks a piece, but I had to build them a coop ($1,000), a covered run ($1,500), and then feed and take care of them daily for months and years. (Care to add up the labor and feed costs for our flock of seven after two years?) And you can’t just replace them on the spot because you can only get new chicks or pullets in the spring, so I’ll be out my investment and the money for all the eggs the hens would have laid in the future, had they not ended up as Hank and Boo’s chew toys.

I love dogs, and I’d be very, very hesitant to shoot someone else’s companion animal and would never do so without severe emergency. But letting your dogs roam free in farm country and then getting pissed off at others for dealing with the results of your irresponsibility in the most expedient and least expensive manner is not rational.  The rational thing would be to keep your damn dogs under control. I love my dogs just like Mr. Taylor loves his, but if I allowed them to escape the property, and some farmer down the road killed them while they were busy slaughtering his laying hens, I wouldn’t blame him in the least for shooting them to prevent thousands of dollars of damage to his poultry. I certainly wouldn’t get all in a huff and cry to the newspaper lady about rational people and the “doggie death penalty.”

40 thoughts on “on dogs, chickens, and suburban sensibilities.

  1. Reminds me of the NYTimes article complaining that Frost’s poem about “good fences make good neighbors” was unneighborly. Prompted me to write my one and only letter (other than the one cancelling my subscription to Pravda on the Hudson). Felt compelled to point out that there was nothing neighborly about your mongrel bull crashing through the fence you won’t keep up and impregnating my registered Angus cow. City folk (shakes head slowly).

  2. I agree completely. Late last year, I bought my girlfriend a trio of ducks, just because she wanted some. She thought they’d be cute and make good pets. And they did. They were a little messy, sure, as ducks tend to be, but they were cute and sweet and quiet. We kept them in a large dog run we bought a large dog run for them, and a swimming pool to wade in a little house for them to sleep in at night. They did nothing but waddle and quack and make us laugh.

    One day, less than a month after getting them all set up, our next door neighbor’s dog – a female pit bull of about 50 pounds – tore a hole through our 6 foot tall wooden privacy fence, came into our yard, then bit and charged at the side of the dog run until the chain link gave way. She tore into the dog run and ripped my our ducks to pieces. There was nothing but blood and feathers everywhere. And that damn dog standing there, in OUR yard, wagging its tail like it was happy.. proud.. that it had just murdered our pets. It even had the audacity to grown at my girlfriend when she walked out into the yard. That dog was less than 20 seconds away from meeting its end when the owner ran into our yard, scooped it up and carried it back home. Local laws allow a landowner to shoot any animal that comes onto their land and threatens them, their family or their pets or livestock. And rightfully so.

    I get so sick of people blindly moaning about their dogs, while turning a blind eye to the damage that those animals cause. I like dogs, I really do. I’ve had many of them. But if people can not control their animals, then it is up to others to protect themselves and the dog owners need to accept and understand that.

  3. Having found the article at the WaPo, both the dogs’ owner and the author of that article are – at best – useful idiots. The dogs were trespassing on someone else’ farm bothering the chickens. For the second time.

    That makes a trend. I find myself saddened that the farmer hasn’t had enough time to improve his aim.

    Of course, I get just as upset when a neighbourhood cat drops by in my (fenced) backyard and bothers *my* dogs. And I definitely need to schedule more range time.

  4. I’d say that most people would instinctively fire a warning shot at the ground near a dog that was killing their animals first. After that, if the dog isn’t scared off, I see no problem with a fwd to Jesus shot. What I wouldn’t do, admittedly, is wade into an attacking dog’s path. I like puncture wounds far less than I like having to put down what was probably a beloved pet to somebody.

    • Once a dog gets a taste for chickens, it becomes relentless in its pursuit of that prey. No quarters given to murderous beasts. And the hen never recovers from the terror, broods in the coop until it is dispatched by it’s owner or gently taken out of the coop daily to feed. I doubt my terrorized hen will lay another egg. If the dog owner loves the animal, he will not let it get into trouble.

    • “I’d say that most people would instinctively fire a warning shot at the ground near a dog that was killing their animals first.”

      That stands to reason: “most people” did not grow up on a farm, and don’t grok the economics of the situation…… which boils down to, on real working farm*, exactly this: If it is not providing you value in either making or supporting the production of a marketable product, food (or fodder for either), then it has to stop …… if it is actually hindering production of same, then it has to be killed, and with fire.

      Warning shots? For a cur that is destroying a years+ woth of effort? That, combined with the cost of ammo these days, tells me that city folk have more money than sense.

      *The farms where the principal product is subsidy checks don’t qualify, and if your farm is not producing a product that won’t make a profit without a subsidy, then it is a hobby supported by government theft, and not actually a working farm….. there’s darn few of them these days …..

  5. I believe the idiom for this situation is “Don’t start none, won’t be none.”

    Say, I wonder how this guy in the paper would react if some other person’s dog were attacking their kids? Would they try the same approach they stated or would they try to beat the shit out of the dog?

  6. Where did they get the idea that your chickens’ lives are somehow less important than their dogs’ lives?
    Huffpo has taken the same position with regard to humans: I once read an article there that stated that, from a societal viewpoint, one life is exactly equal to another. Therefore, self defense (even to defend one’s own life) should be illegal, because a dead burglar is the equivalent to a dead homeowner.

    • “… a dead burglar is the equivalent to a dead homeowner.”

      I briefly got into a discussion in comments to a CNN article with someone who so strongly believed that, he said if he was defending himself and his loved ones against a violent home invader and killed the guy he would turn himself over to the police and hope they’d charge him with murder.

      I pity his loved ones, for he admittedly valued the life of a violent criminal over their lives.

      • This is what I call the Timothy Treadwell Fallacy. In the abstract, when the teeth weren’t closing on his jugular, Timothy Treadwell, the Alaska Grizzley Man said he would be honored to become part of the Grizzlies he loved so much. In the event, he found there was a big distinction to be made between sitting with the grizzlies and being a dinner that sat well with the grizzlies.
        I think this dangerous — person– would find a difference between his wife who had no deadly designs on anyone 15 minutes before, and the burglar, who woke up that morning with deadly intent.

  7. You forgot… He also should be responsible for ammunition costs, emotional stress, and removal of the bodies. This is another “not my problem” syndrome. If the USMC taught me one thing, it is to accept responsibility for my actions and the actions of those (and things) I am responsible for. Except for the climate, I think I would like your neck-of-the-woods.

  8. Around here, at least outside of town on farms and ranches, it is kind of understood that a dog running loose is in a weapons free zone. No excuses. No apologies.

    • You know what the scientific name for dogs running around unchecked is?


      I grew up with a dog, love dogs, wish I could have one right now. But I’ve also had to kill two dogs that forgot their place in the Circle of life, and decided to attack people.

      • Concur. My wife and I love our dog enough _not_ to let her run loose. Too much can go wrong in the space between one heartbeat and the next.

  9. Knew of a dairy farmer back in the `80s, his cows were being harassed by a couple of Dobermans. The farmer called the dogs’ owner and was told: “My dogs don’t chase cows.”

    A couple of weeks later, the dogs were chasing the cows. The farmer shot both of them and buried them. Said nothing.

    A few days after that, the dogs’ owner called and asked if the farmer had seen his dogs. The farmer said no, he hadn’t, then added that he had killed two Dobermans that were chasing his cows. “but they couldn’t have been your dogs because your dogs don’t chase cows.”

    • Yup, that’s the smart-ass comeback. Might even make you feel good, but it always has the potential to backfire.

      The proper (smart) response is to shoot, shovel, and shut-up.

      • The guy who owned the Dobermans was some yuppie Yorker bastard (from NYC). He wasn’t much of a threat. State law at the time permitted a farmer whose stock was being preyed on to use almost anything to eliminate the threat that he wanted, except for nuclear weapons, and probably because they hadn’t been invented when the statute was enacted.

  10. I wish they get as exercised by cops shooting dogs unnecessarily. That’s far less excusable.

    It shall be lawful for any person to kill a dog, wearing a collar
    with a rabies vaccination tag attached, when the dog is caught in the
    act of chasing, maiming, or killing any domestic animal or fowl, or
    when such dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person.

    This is the law in Iowa. Of course unless you live in a overpriced apartment in down town Des Moines, they think everyone here is a gun toting redneck looking for something to kill. We have 4 dogs and I know that one of them has killed a few snakes in the back yard. I think he might have killed a possum too.


    I want to live out in the country so bad. I hate living in the city where it seems like everyone knows your business. The problem is that after the bubble broke, I owe more on this place than I paid for it. The market isn’t good enough for me to even break even. I’d give up the conveniences of city living for the country in a heartbeat.

  12. When I was farming, people dumping their”pets” in the country was a standard practice. Most of the other farmers around were livestock producers. I once called the dog catcher to come and get a couple of dumped young dogs. When he arrived his comment was”don’t get much in the way of live dog calls in this neighborhood.”
    One sheep farmer I knew pretty well got tired of shooting his idiot neighbor’s dogs in his sheep and started hanging the bodies on the fence between their properties. Their solution to missing dogs was to just go get some more. The dog warden told Jack that he didn’t care if Jack shot the dogs, but passers by were complaining about fence decorations and he had to stop that.
    There were a few houses with just a lot in the area. Had a city guy who’d bought one of those houses stop by and ask about a missing dog. I told him I hadn’t seen it and probably no one would ever see it again. Told him leash law enforcement was a bit different in the country.

    • The sheep farmer should have started charging his neighbors for any damage to his sheep. I bet they’d start keeping their dogs on their leash then. (In addition to it being lawful to shoot the dogs, the dogs’ owners are legally responsible for any damage they cause).

  13. I grew up shearing sheep. I have seen first hand the damage that even a small dog can do to a band of sheep. 10 dead 60+ wounded. If the owner was ever found he was billed thousands.

  14. Once a dog gets a taste for the chicken yard or running livestock, it has to be put down. Everybody out in the country knows that.

    • That’s right. the only solution is to tie the dead chicken around the neck of the dog until it rots enough to fall off, but sometimes that isn’t possible and it’s Ol’ Yeller time.

      • Occasionally, if the dog in question was worth keeping. My father would beat the dog with the dead chicken. Gruesome, but it worked.

        We had one dog that got that treatment when he was still a fairly young dog. We had him for years after. He even saved my brother from a serious mauling from a raccoon that we had cornered when it came out fighting (yes, we were boys and occasionally did stupid things). That dog wouldn’t go anywhere near the chickens after his one “run in” with dad.

  15. I did have a dog that decided to chase the on old banty hen. he caught her. once. it then became a game. the dog would chase the chicken as long as the chicken would let it. then he stopped. Sometimes the chicken would sneak up on the napping dog. peck its tail and run.
    No we didn’t have cable. we had to find other entertainment.

  16. there is nothing more infuriating than someone letting their dogs run loose when they do not have full control over the animal. i don’t care where people are, city/burbs/country, keep those dogs leashed unless they are 100% dead reliable at listening to their owner/handler. otherwise, whatever happens is on the owner/handler’s head, NOT the other party.

  17. I ended up having to help shoot a couple of dogs that were harassing horses and alpacas. (They didn’t mess with the llamas.) After confirming that the stables were still outside the town limits despite a recent annexation, the next time the dogs showed up and charged into the paddock and run, it was open season. The property owner had called the dogs’ owner and warned them the first time. There was no third time. I still wish we’d turned that nasty mare out and sic’ed her on the dogs, but the stable boss said that would be mean – the dogs didn’t deserve that kind of torment.

    • A couple of dogs can bring down a cow pretty easily.
      Except maybe the snack-sized ones.)

  18. Smug bastard.

    [b]“The simple solution for a rational person is to pick up a phone, but what this law allows people to do is to pick up a gun.”[/b]

    What, precisely does he thing the local cops were going to do? Idiot.

    He’s above getting his hands dirty, so he’ll just call men with guns and badges to fix the problem for him.

    • This.

      Years ago, I attended a State Judiciary Committee hearing, to testify in support of a bill to improve our CHL law, and had to sit through nearly an hour of “testimony” from a family of ….. “new to the country life” acreage owners, lamenting the fact that their neighbor’s pit-bull mix dogs were stalking their children and killing their pet cats….. these people drove 2+ hours to the State Capitol building, sat through a couple of hours of some other bleeding heart Fellow Travellers’ pleas for “more beds and more meds” for recently released State Pen inmates, not in support of opposition to any particular bill, but to ask the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to “do something!” ….. that something which the man of the house did not have the stones to do himself ……


    • Ehhhh, that is no solution, that’s just Chicken Death Penalty.

      At the risk of unoriginality, “For the chicken, when seconds count, animal control is at best minutes away.”

  19. There were simple solutions for the dog owner. They are called a leash and a cage. If the dogs will not behave, the owner must control them. Mr. I M Special let his animals run free, and when they misbehaved, they were stopped. He might not have liked how they were stopped, but it is HIS FAULT that they were shot.

    I would shed a tear for the animals, but I curse the idiocy of the owner.

  20. PaulB:

    Never fire warning shots. Ever. A warning shot signals that you are unsure that deadly force is needed.

    If you are not justified using deadly force, then the firearm should never see the light of day.

    If you are justified to use deadly force, then just use deadly force.

  21. SSS has been the only way to handle it around here. Sadly you risk a lot if you don’t do it that way. Irresponsible owners make it miserable for everyone. Where has common sense and accountability gone?

  22. In my younger days, I was asked by a local Sheriff’s deputy I knew to participate in a feral dog eradication. Once or twice a year the Sheriff’s office would get interested deputies and local shooters and hunters that they trusted around loaded guns and go out in to the county to thin out the packs of feral dogs. They would get reports from farmers where there were packs of ferals, and the culling party would go out and take care of the ugly necessity.

    I seem to remember doing it 3 times, total of about 60 or 70 ferals culled. Dogs that would come up to the people wouldn’t be shot, but I only remember one dog doing that. That one turned out to be a recent stray that probably wasn’t socialized well into the pack yet. He went with the animal control officer to the pound, probably to be put down anyway.

    I left for college shortly after that, and I don’t know if the practice continued or not.

    People only think of their dogs as pets and companions. To the world at large, that pet is a predatory pack carnivore. When it behaves as a pet, it whill almost universally be treated as one. When it behaves as a carnivore, don’t be surprised at the outcome.


  23. The same thing happened here, recently. The farmer is also a police officer and is now suspended, pending animal cruelty charges against him. The media has been brutal against the cop defending his chickens. Also, the law is on his side, but they are making him prove it in court, the written law be damned.