Is it legal to kill a stray dog?

April 24, 2013

Stray and feral dog overpopulation has reached epidemic proportions in many areas of the U.S. So, is it legal to kill a stray dog in an effort to curb the population and protect the public? It depends on the Penal laws in the state the dog resides in, and on who’s holding the gun. The determination of whether the dog is feral or a stray may also be exaggerated depending on whether a private citizen or the police are doing the shooting.

The determination of whether the dog is said to be a stray or a feral also comes into play. A dead dog can’t come to its own defense, leaving the public to wonder exactly what type of dogs are being shot by those authorized to legally kill them. This includes police officers, animal control personnel those specially trained by the Natural Resources Enforcement Officers.

It’s important for pet owner’s everywhere to use their internet search engine to learn the Penal Laws concerning animals for the state they reside in. Most states allow the shooting of any dog that is attacking livestock or pets and is on personal property.

Natural Resources Enforcement Officers and their representatives, (police officers trained by them) are being given free reign to kill stray and feral dogs to curb this under-publicized nationwide epidemic. Some areas of the country are holding dog shoots in much the same manner as deer or turkey hunting.

South Carolina has several penal laws that could mean death to stray dogs. According to Penal law 47-3-320, each of the states 28 law enforcement units will have two officers trained by two enforcement officers of the Natural Resources Enforcement Division of the Department Of Natural Resources. These 56 officers will be trained in the proper method to dispose of feral or stray dogs and all complaints of such will be referred to their department.

According to S.C. Penal Law 47-3-310, a feral dog is considered a dog that has resorted to a wild state and threatens the life of livestock or people.

This is where definitions get a bit tricky. A stray dog is considered a lost dog. It once had an owner and was either willfully abandoned or became lost by accident. Over time, a stray dog will likely become feral to a certain degree in order to survive. The offspring of a stray dog with no home may be born feral and will have no trust in humans. Either way, the carcass of a dead dog won’t determine whether the dog was a stray who had wandered from home or a dangerous feral predator.

While all animals are supposedly only euthanized by those trained in the procedure using drugs or carbon monoxide, shooting is listed as an alternative to prevent extreme suffering or when it’s a safety risk to people or other animals. It’s also legal for the Natural Resources Enforcement Division to shoot feral dogs to control or eliminate overpopulation.

Also, any person who kills a dog who is killing sheep may not be held liable for the death of that dog, whether the dog is considered a stray or a feral. The owner of the dog may be held financially responsible for the replacement cost of any livestock killed.

Many states consider it a crime to shoot a dog for simple trespassing. The dog owner may be fined for not having control of the dog, or in violation of leash laws. Again, this is information a dog owner should check into for their state. Unfortunately, those laws often fail to cover police officers or animal control officers who determine it necessary to kill a dog while performing their duty as an officer.

This is how most LEO’s get away with the murder of a family dog. It’s allowed in their job description should the officer determines whether or not the dog poses a danger to himself, public safety or other pets.

The problem of stray dogs has grown so much that police departments across the country are now given the option of just shooting stray dogs and drop off the carcass at a designated location. This is what happened last year in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Police officers received a memo stating it was acceptable to shoot a stray dog and drop the carcass off at the Department of Agriculture loading dock. While police there didn’t take that option, it was there. Officers could also offer the option of adopting a stray by the person calling in the report. An officer could also take the dog to a safer area where it would be released.

Manitoba, Canada recently posted the notice pictured above asking the public to tie up strays for constables to pick up and destroy. Any strays found running loose would be shot.

Citizens on opposing sides debate the issue of what to do about stray or feral dogs. Many are frightened of the packs of dogs who become neighborhood predators at night. It’s estimated these dogs are only visible 10% of the time, making it easy to underestimate the problem or the danger the dogs pose.

There’s also a little-known branch of the U.S. government that’s connected to the Department of Agriculture. Wildlife Services Predator Control has killed thousands of what they consider stray or feral dogs, many of which were actually pets who wandered onto the property where Predator Control had placed traps.

Many people who walk or jog have made it a habit of carrying pepper spray to use on a dog should it attack. Animal rights activists want the dogs caught and put up for adoption. One problem is with the dog/shelter space ratio. Money shortage and the lack of volunteers to care for the dogs compound the problem.

Readers, what do you think it would take to fix this problem? Should stray and feral dogs be hunted and killed as a community event, or is there a more humane solution to this problem?

Your comments are welcome.





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