“If there’s a dog that’s wild or is endangering a herd, clearly the farmer is in a position where he could take a .22 out and deal with the dog. But the legalities of pulling a gun and firing it don’t go away just because it’s on private land.”
– LINE KARPISH
The next time Shannon Neurauter has a roaming dog in her sights on her land, she won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
“If anybody else’s dog shows up, I’m not going to be concerned about anybody; I’ll just shoot it,” said Neurauter, a sheep owner from Christopher Lake, Sask. whose family operates Bitter Creek Farms.
“I’ll throw it in the bush, and that will be the end of it.”
That’s because the last time she gave the benefit of the doubt to wandering canines, her flock of sheep ended up paying a very nasty price.
On Jan. 1, her daughter Antonia and a friend were heading out to the barn to feed the animals while Shannon, a nurse, was at work.
They were surprised to see a heifer calf outside the fence, looking scared. Then they saw pink sheep, some laying on the ground and others on top of bales.
After they saw the first dog, Antonia sent her friend to fetch her father, Ross. The dog wagged its tail and she was able to easily catch it and tie it to the fence.
Then she spotted a second dog hunched down, mauling a sheep that was still alive. It ran away immediately, but not until she got a good look at it, noting that it had a white face.
Ross called the number on the captured dog’s collar. It belonged to a neighbour, who after seeing the horrific scene, agreed to pay damages and left the dog with him on the understanding that he would put it down immediately.
Livestock loss compensation programs don’t apply if the killer was a domestic dog, which means that a civil claim is the only recourse, she noted.
A provincial insurance agent came out and took pictures, which helped to settle the claim quickly via a payout from the neighbour’s insurer.
All told, the Neurauters lost 13 of their 28 Dorper and Dorper-Katahdin-cross sheep that day, which she figures were worth about $300 each. Many of the surviving sheep were severely injured, and required vet medications and treatments cost about $900.
Some of the surviving ewes have since aborted, leaving them with just 15 sheep, some of which are probably worthless due to injuries, including badly torn noses.
As a nurse, she was able to do much of the doctoring herself.
”They’re chewed up. I’ve got three that I probably should put down, but I’m kind of waiting.”
Although the second dog’s owners promised to take it to the vet and have it euthanized the following Monday, they later changed their mind, claiming that it couldn’t possibly have been involved because it wasn’t covered in blood.
Since the attack, she has received compensation from one neighbour to the tune of $4,800. The other is being “stubborn,” Shannon said, and a legal claim is currently in the hands of her lawyer.
“If I have to sue them, I’ll sue them. But we’ll see what happens,” she said, adding that her estimate of the total losses from the attack amounts to over $10,000.
If she can win her claim for compensation, she plans to try to have the dog designated as dangerous so that it will be destroyed.
The remaining sheep are now kept securely in the barn. The family owns a border collie and a Great Pyrenees livestock protection dog, but it hasn’t been properly bonded with the sheep.
People often bring their dogs to visit the farm, and although the big white dog is good at fending
off coyotes, it has likely learned that domestic dogs are off limits, she added.
Her biggest regret after the whole incident, is that last summer when she had the dogs in her sights on her land, she decided not to pull the trigger, even though she had every right to do so.
“I could see collars and tags, and I could tell that they were well-maintained pets. I thought, oh, some kid is going to be looking for his dog,” she said. “So I didn’t shoot them, but I’m pretty sure they were the same dogs.”
Manitoba RCMP media relations officer Line Karpish confirmed that a farmer or landowner does have the right to shoot stray or roaming dogs that are on their property and endangering their livestock, but added that the situation is not completely “black and white.”
“There are nuances,” she said. Whenever a firearm is used, said
Karpish, the shooter must make sure that nothing behind the target could be endangered, human or otherwise, or they could end up being charged with careless use of a firearm.
Also, if the owner of the animal is known, reasonable efforts should first be made to have the matter resolved peacefully with the owner. Depending on the area, there may be a bylaw enforcement officer who can be called to catch the animal, or the landowner could call the local police.
“Yes, if there’s a dog that’s wild or is endangering a herd, clearly the farmer is in a position where he could take a .22 out and deal with the dog,” said Sgt. Karpish. “But the legalities of pulling a gun and firing it don’t go away just because it’s on private land.” [email protected]