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Bill involving livestock guardian dogs has some pushback



SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Dogs who guard livestock are at the center of a new bill attracting some pushback.

House Bill 166 is up for discussion in the Senate and bill sponsor, representative Casey Snider said the bill aims to address the treatment and theft of livestock – including guardian dogs.

“You can talk to nearly any rural county commissioner or prosecutor and they’ve seen more horses, cows being shot,” Snider said. “Its primary purpose is to disincentivize those poor behaviors.”

This bill criminalizes the wanton destruction of livestock – defining guardian dogs as livestock.

“If a dog is guarding a herd of sheep, the person who owns the sheep is also presumed to own the dog – for the purposes of theft,” he said. “You used to have to kill something that was worth $500 to really even be taken seriously as a crime. Now it’s $250.”

Lynette Wendel – a community activist – said this bill does not necessarily protect these dogs.

“There was actually gonna be implications not only to the welfare of the dogs, but to the safety, and maybe even general welfare of the communities at large,” she said.

Snider believes livestock guardian dogs are different than a domestic dog – saying they’re bred for a purpose.

“They live with the livestock, they’re raised with the livestock that they guard,” he said. “It’s a fairly narrow standard. This is not your border collies that are herding animals, it’s the dogs that are out there on the range.”

Wendel said part of the bill suggests ranchers would not be required to show proof of ownership – and for her, that’s a concern.

“The bad thing is in the cases where there’s been abuse, neglect, abandonment, this means that we don’t have any proof to who that dog belonged to under those circumstances,” Wendel said.

If a dog is found abandoned, Wendel said the bill gets confusing, as to who has responsibility for the dog.

“Should a good Samaritan happen to find or rescue – or be called out to attend to an injured or abandon animal – they will actually be considered criminals for taking the property of an unknown owner,” she said.

For Snider, he believes a majority of ranchers want to bring their livestock dog home, not left abandoned.

“It’s in the best financial interest of the rancher to bring everything home,” he said. “Sometimes these dogs don’t want to come home as well as do the sheep at times.”

Snider said in many instances, people are stealing dogs – they’re not being abandoned.

But in the event an individual were to come across an abandoned livestock dog, he said they would not face criminal charges.

“I see nothing in this bill that would criminalize good Samaritan behavior, but I do see instances in this bill and the necessity of this bill is in those cases where people have made a decision and then are not willing to return stolen property,” Snider said.

Wendell said she hopes the bill can be amended to further discussion on how everyone’s objectives can be properly met.

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