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.”