Contain (and train) your dogs

A sickening story about a loose dog killing chickens offers multiple lessons – and extreme anguish and anger all around.

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The rural/suburban interface contains no end of potential conflicts for the humans who choose to live there and the animals they own, and perhaps no animals are more commonly at the center of neighbor disputes than conflicts involving uncontained dogs and livestock. Many people like living on large lots, but fencing is costly, so loose dogs are a frequent concern in areas where people keep chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, and other animals.

A friend forwarded a January 3, 2023, article to me from a newspaper that serves the semi-rural community where I went to high school. The article tells the story of a tragic event that occurred in mid-September 2022, about a family whose dog was accidently let loose by the owners’ grandchildren, who tried in vain to call the dog back. Within minutes, the dog wandered to the unfenced yard of a next-door neighbor, where he began chasing the neighbor’s chickens, catching and killing two of them.

As the dog raced about, chasing the squawking chickens, one of the dog’s owners, a woman in her 70s, pursued the dog with a leash, calling his name – and then, seeing him actually grab one of the chickens, began screaming at the dog in horror. She has limited mobility, however (she had hip replacement surgery the previous month), and fell at several points in pursuit of the dog. Hearing the hubbub, one of the owners of the chickens ran outside and began screaming at the dog’s owner in anger – and was quickly joined by her husband, an off-duty police officer, who emerged from his house with a gun and began chasing the dog, yelling. The owner of the dog manages to grab him, and fasten a leash to his collar, but he was still fixated on the chickens and managed to pull away from her, and she fell hard on the ground again.

At that point, the couple that owned the chickens were both screaming, with the wife yelling at her husband, “Shoot it! Shoot the f***ing dog!” With the dog’s owner still on the ground, and the dog about 20 feet away, the husband shot the dog three times, angrily yelling, “That’s my right! That’s the law! F*** this!” as the dog’s owner sobbed.

All of this was captured by the chickens’ owners’ home security cameras, and submitted to the newspaper by the chickens’ owners.  The newspaper released the footage in a link. (Warning: Though you hear but do not see the dog get shot, the footage is extremely upsetting.)

As the newspaper article said, “Not surprisingly, the [families involved] don’t agree on what happened before, during or after the shooting.” The shooter claimed that the dog had previously menaced him on other occasions when it was loose, and that the dog turned and lunged toward him. The dog’s owners say the dog never moved toward the shooter, and was shot in the back, and that the shooter’s children had played with the dog previously. Whatever the facts are, the most indisputable is that the dog is dead. His dog’s owners transported him to a veterinarian, where they made the decision to have him euthanized due to his extensive injuries.

To make tensions between the neighbors even higher, two weeks later, the owners of the chickens set up a macabre “Halloween” scene in their front yard approximately where their neighbor’s dog was shot: a plastic skeleton of a dog sitting up, in a howling-at-the-moon pose, and a plastic human skeleton lying the ground next to the dog, with a leash in its hand, in their front yard. Woof.

Lessons, but only for those who will learn them

I’m sorry for everyone involved here: the dog, his owners, their grandchildren, the chickens, and even the chicken owners, despite the violence of their act and the needless and insensitive display in their yard. The anger and bitterness between all the surviving parties is sure to last years – and it was all avoidable. Here’s how:

  • If a dog has escaped his enclosure even once, serious steps must be made to prevent this from happening again. This is especially true if there is livestock in the area and/or if the dog has shown any interest in chasing birds or other animals in the past – or if the dog has ever chased a human or another dog with aggression. The dog owners had a fenced yard where the dog is ordinarily secure, but something happened when the grandchildren were outside with the dog. Keep gates securely locked – like, with a padlock – if there is anyone present who may be unable to prevent the dog from slipping out, or is not 100% able to manage the gate. Or install an “airlock” – a system of two gates that prevents an accidental escape. If the dog climbs or jumps over, or digs under, fences, he needs to be secured in a small covered pen on concrete when he’s not on leash.
  • Train your dog! In my opinion, teaching a dog a reliable recall, “proofed” under conditions that are made progressively more difficult for the dog as he learns and succeeds, should be the responsibility of every dog owner. No dog is perfect under all conditions, but a decent recall saves lives.
  • If someone (especially someone you know) is chasing their loose dog in obvious distress, help them catch their dog or chase it away! It’s highly upsetting to lose your chickens or any other pet or livestock, but the lack of empathy shown to the dog’s owner (shooting her dog in front of her, while obviously injured, she sobbed helpless on the ground) in favor of protecting the chickens, is absolutely inhumane. Once the loose-dog incident was over – had the owner of the chickens helped the dog owner catch or chase away the dog – all of the humans could have made a plan to keep everyone safe in the future. Surely, a peaceable relationship your next-door neighbor is more important than acting rashly on your righteous anger.

It’s much better to prevent dog-related disasters than to deal with their aftermath. Owners need to take full responsibility for damage inflicted by their loose dogs – and this can involve far more than dead chickens. Any rancher in California will tell you that they lose more sheep, goats, and even cattle to loose dogs than to coyotes or mountain lions. I read one account where a human lost their life in a car accident, swerving to avoid hitting a loose dog. Please, do everything in your power to contain and train your dogs!

32 COMMENTS

  1. It is legal in most states to kill dogs killing your livestock. Dogs can be reliable trained to ignore livestock and wild life with an e-collar. But the “death before discomfort cult”, clutches their pearls over the very thought of an e-collar. I trained my dog with one. I think a lot more of my dog, than I do any human walking. No it was not “cruel” to train my dog.

  2. I would think that there should be legal ramifications of someone shooting with people so close. If it was caught on video, it should be easy to prove that it could have potentially hurt a human. I understand that it is legal to shoot a dog for harming livestock, but really? A cop should know better to discharge his weapon in that manner, and I can say that because my husband was one for 43 years. I would like to hear if there is any more to this after the fact. I think at the very least he should be suspended from work and made to take some sort of anger management class. And, yes, the dog owner is culpable too, to a degree. I would hope if she gets another dog, she does insure it will never get loose. But, as a dog owner for a LONG time, I do understand that it can happen even to the best of owners.
    This article was certainly disturbing, I have to say I wish I had not read it…………………..

  3. Very disturbing story; this is not what i expect from this publication. Very few dogs with excellent recall will turn if they are pursuing prey. I have enjoyed this publication for years. I am very disappointed you chose to write about this unfortunate episode. Of COURSE, people need to have their dogs secure – for everyone’s safety. This country is so divided now, so filled with anger and vitriol. Your choice to publish this, to throw the vitriol in our faces (we get plenty of that in the news), was a bad editorial decision. Any more like this, and I am done with WDJ.

    • Strange response, it is clear at the start of this blog post that the story would be very disturbing. The horrible incident is relayed to the readers who choose to continue reading. I’m very upset by this news story, but, as an adult, I don’t think i want to be shielded from real life. Maybe i can help prevent something so awful from happening in the future

      • I agree with you that it’s strange to be so angry at the whole dog journal for reporting on the story.

        Some people, when they are upset, handle their negative feelings by venting on someone else. Maybe that is what is happening here.

    • I’m sorry you feel this way. Perhaps it’s because I see so many loose dogs (it might help if I didn’t follow local Facebook groups that attempt to help lost/separated dogs find find their way back to their owners), but I think it’s common for some people to think of their dogs’ escapes (or just wandering) as not that serious. And I think of it as life-and-death serious! If there is anything I can do or say or write to convince people to take ANY STEP NEEDED to prevent their dogs from escaping, I’ll do it.

      • I am really glad that you posted this here. I looked us up and read several articles on it and I did not get the impression that the dog was loose a lot of the time. I think your point that even one time can lead to terrible and painful consequences is very valid.

    • What the —-??!! We were all warned at the beginning that the post would be disturbing. I’m sure no one held a gun to your head and forced you to read it. As an adult, I prefer to at least start reading such posts and to decide for myself how much to read. This is one that I – like Charlotte C. – wish I hadn’t read. It was a tragedy for all concerned; but a police officer should know better than to react in anger to ANY situation. And to kill a neighbor’s dog in front of her while said neighbor is laying on the ground, helpless? That is not just inhumane, it’s despicable! So, if this article is so offensive to you, then just stop reading WDJ right now. It’s tragic, yes; but people need to be aware that such tragedies happen so they can learn how to prevent them in the future.

  4. So many tragic aspects to this story. One particularly disturbing feature is the police officer making not-so-subtle death threats against the dog owner by depicting her as a skeleton, dead, along with her dog. I am a staunch supporter of law enforcement, but disturbed individuals like this have no place on a police force. No one seems to be calling out the owners of the chickens, who just let them roam, and expect all other predators (everyone’s a predator for a chicken) to defy all natural instincts and leave them alone. Are they going to shoot every fox, bobcat, dog, coyote, or hawk that approaches their chickens? They need to show some responsibility by securing their chickens. Of course the dog should not have gotten loose. But the chicken owner is just as much, if not more, to blame. And though I’m also surprised, saddened and disappointed to see WDJ readers/commenters who believe applying electric shock voltage to your dog to “teach” him how to defy his natural instincts is some sort of solution. I wish these people who think inflicting pain upon dogs to quickly achieve a desired result would spend a little more time reading their Whole Dog Journal issues, considering positive training is covered extensively.

  5. Please make different editorial decisions moving forward. Our dogs are not the only sentient beings who respond better to positive training than to being ‘shocked’, frightened and scolded. Your readers deserve the same consideration/respect as our dogs.

    Please also reconsider the myth of control. We do not have the power to keep our pups from suffering all physical and emotional harm. No matter what we do. No matter how much we frighten or beat ourselves up over our real and imagined “failures” with our dogs. No matter how many airlocks we install and how hard we have worked with our dogs on recalls.

    What happened to this dog and her humans is a tragedy. How would they feel reading your blog?

    When I was 4 years old the neighborhood bully approached me from the street on her bike. I was afraid. Our family dog ran towards the girl, barking and growling. I desperately called her to come back to me. She did not. The bully, also a child, lashed out, kicking the dog. The dog bit, breaking skin. The police came and took our dog away and euthanized her.
    Even at 4 I knew that as the human I was responsible for the dog. I had been taught that that was my job. What I had not been taught was compassion. Compassion for the bully, compassion for the dog, and perhaps mostly importantly compassion for myself and the rest of my family who did the best that they could and were not able to stop a tragedy.

    I look to WDJ to help me improve my dogs and my life. This article did not.

  6. This is just sickening. I would never expect to read something like this let alone with a video of the killing especially from WDJ.

    No one even ran to the dogs side after this poor innocent soul was shot three times. I cannot imagine the pain that dog went through, and by itself for who knows how long after being shot three times.

    Rest in peace pup. It was never your fault.

    • Let’s be clear here: The blog was referencing an article that was published in a newspaper. While it may have been new information to many of us, it was already out there.

      In order to watch the video, one has to purposefully click on it to start the recording. The editor made full disclosure that the footage was disturbing. I opted not to watch it. I didn’t think it would give me any new information and felt I didn’t need to see — and thus implant in my visual memory — what I knew happened. And yet, the reader who found it “just sickening” that WDJ published the story and video, made a conscious choice to watch it.

      There is, of course, a much bigger issue here: The need for people to take personal responsibility for what they choose to do or not do. Our highly litigious society’s view is that it’s always someone’s fault. Blame. Shame. Yes, this is a very sad story. I’d like to think that if everyone involved was given an opportunity to go back and do things differently, they would have all made much better choices.

      I applaud WDJ for taking on such a tough issue. The story they shared has, to varying degrees, happened countless times before. And yet, they continue to occur. As the editor wisely said:
      Lessons, but only for those who will learn them.

      • Killing the messenger is a practice that has been known to humans for a long time. Some people when they hear something very distressing, cannot tolerate the discomfort it causes them and they immediately lash out.

        Wikipedia has an interesting history of killing the messenger.

        Like in the ancient tale described in wikipedia, the lashing out is usually against the wrong person. The person who suffers the abuse is usually not the person that caused the problem but someone that the person lashing out can safely take out their frustration on.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_the_messenger

        • You want to talk about killing someone you should be talking about the innocent dog that was killed instead of attacking me. For simply stating that this incident was sickening. And this is not the type of material people are used to from this publication. Almost all of my comment was in regards to the loss of the dogs life. Yet you never even mentioned this innocent dog in your comment. Your entire comment was to attack me. Says a lot about you. That’s not what this forum or any others are supposed to be about. This is about the loss of this dogs life. Why don’t you get your head out of the sand and talk about that instead of attacking strangers on a forum for no reason especially attacking someone who was saddened by this death and stated that they wished this dog rest in peace.

      • It was stated that the incident was ‘sickening’. And in another sentence it was stated that this is not the material people are used to from wdj, as did quite a few others as well. You’re attacking me for you misreading the comment or for you taking it for not what it is but for what you wanted it to be just to.. attack a complete stranger for no reason. The writer used the same word ‘sickening’ in the beginning of the caption to the article so why your attacking me for using the same word is lgnorant..

        Majority of my comment was about the loss of this innocent dog and how saddening it is how this dog died. And that I wish this dog may rest in peace.

        Yet your attacking me for using a word to describe this incident which is the same word that the writer used.

  7. These types of experiences are dividing our society further and further apart. I could write a thesis about what went wrong here. But perhaps peace could’ve started with sharing the blame. So obvious. Maybe helping the woman when she fell. She could’ve had a stroke or heart attack out there. The neighbor mourning the loss of two defenseless creatures. Offering two beautiful chickens in sympathy. So what was gained here. The loss of life for no reason. Accidents happen, but forgiveness needs to, as well. There’s just no civility left in life. All we can do is wish (or pray) for enlightenment. Or nothing will be left of a society in which we were raised.

  8. In ACTUALLY rural communities there is a saying that goes back decades. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Anyone with livestock should be required to build a fence, or suffer the consequences! Oh, and there’s another one that goes back even further. “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.

  9. I know of a woman (looking at you, Kris) whose border collie was repeatedly allowed to escape its yard in the affluent Los Angeles suburb of Rolling Hills, CA, and chase and harass boarded horses at a nearby stable. The stable management warned them that if it happened one more time, they’d have the dog put down. And it did, and they did. And Kris then had the audacity to act like the victim who deserved sympathy in this. I was furious with her for allowing this to happen and for not being accountable for her lack of management. Thank you for this article, and for reiterating the common sense message that we are responsible for the behavior of our animals. Ugh. This is so frustrating.

  10. What a disturbing story! That person has no business on the police force. He is clearly mentally disturbed in everYthing he did, from shooting the dog to his Halloween display. Who in their right mind would let defensiveless animals (chickens) run freely to be attacked by other animals. I wouldn’t want to live any where near that so called police officer. What a menace he is.

  11. I concur that this is important information and thank you to WDJ for sharing this story. Horrible things happen in life and if even if one owner takes preventative action because of this article, it has succeeded.

  12. I have been thinking about this article since it was posted. I’ve lived in this house since March 2010. The day I signed the contract to buy the house I found a fence contractor to build a secure fence. I moved here with 4 older well-behaved dogs. My new neighbor came to visit….and left the front door open……one of my Goldens ran out the door with me running after her. Daisy had never been a door darter and had a good recall…..but I was worried because both neighbors had horses and dogs. Daisy ran to the pond on our property and went for a swim…..I think she had been planning this because the dogs can see the pond from the fenced yard. She came right to me and into the fenced yard but it could have turned out very differently if she had run into the neighbors pastures. I have not opened the front door for anyone in almost 13 years ….without all of the dogs safely secured. Lesson learned ……this could happen to anyone.

  13. I agree with the commenter who feels that if even one owner takes preventative action, the article was worthwhile. I am a little less in agreement with the fact taking issue that the occupation of the shooter had any impact on the outcome “an off-duty police officer” as plenty of my neighbors have livestock, from cows and calves, horses sheep and goats, and yes, chickens, to know that my dogs could and likely would, suffer the same fate as this dog if chasing them. And not one is a police officer. I agree this man certainly acted inappropriately and in a juvenile, reprehensible manner thereafter. Firearms are rampant in the U.S. regardless of occupation. It is the responsibility of the dog owner to keep their animals in control, and recognizing that accidents will and can occur, the livestock owner is (still) in the right. The legal right anyway, if not a moral right in every case. A number of States will mandate the euthanasia of a dog who kills another domestic animal. And it is not the weight of providing predator proof enclosures that is the responsibility of the livestock owner, nor should it. I no longer have free roaming cats on my farm. When I did however, a neighbor allowed their roaming Pitty dogs to come onto my farm in spite of telling them repeatedly they were hunting my cats and chasing my horses. I was also menaced, surrounded, and suffered punctures to my hands when I tried to intervene to save my own animals. I do not in any way feel it was my responsibility to fence my property from roaming packs of dogs threatening my animals and myself. We (several neighbors and myself) used the legal route and court appearances to deal with the issue and the dogs no longer exist on that property, all were re-homed from all accounts. Again however, it was not THEIR fault. This situation is different in some very important ways of course. Inherent though, as a thread through comments, is the placement of some greater “value” on the life of the dog as opposed to the chickens. The chickens should also have safety in their own home On their own Property without viciously torn apart for entertainment by dogs, regardless of how unintended. The life of the chicken was as valuable to them, and the pain and terror as valid, as the dog’s was to the dog. While not me, I know Some people love and value their chickens as pets and family members.