Yesterday my husband was out doing some farm chores when he discovered that one of the neighbors free-ranging dogs had chewed and pushed its head through our wire chicken fence in an attempt to get the chickens. Fortunately either something interrupted it, or the chickens got so far back into their yard that it couldn't reach them. It left empty handed. However, the hole left behind was just the perfect size for all of our birds to get out and wander out into the horse pasture where they were completely vulnerable. Again they were fortunate that the discovery was made in time and we managed to do a bit of chicken herding to get everyone back safe and sound.
Due to the stress of the day, however, the birds have been put off of their laying. Since we are not a profit driven business (we give our eggs away) and we are not depending on poultry for our entire food intake, this is not a terrible thing (except of course that the birds are obviously stressed). What does make this a terrible thing is the position this puts us in. We've trapped and returned one of the dogs once, explaining the situation but no changes were made. Now we chase the animals away on an almost daily basis. We have no recourse now but the bullet.
The state of Tennessee (and many others) gives us the legal right to shoot animals on our property regardless of whether or not they are attempting to harm livestock (though these animals obviously are). But legality is not the issue here. What IS the issue is my anger at having been put in this position. We love dogs with a passion. All of our own dogs are rescued animals who live pampered lives filled with love, chew toys, nutrition and the best veterinary care available. I cannot even hear a dog's cry without bursting into tears. Yet so many others think nothing of letting packs of dogs run around creating havoc. We've attempted to find homes for many of the feral dogs that have wandered on to our property, and have even been successful once. But if we tried to do that with every dog that wandered on to our property we would have to stop farming entirely and make feral dog/cat rescue our full time (though nonpaying) job. We simply do not have time to catch and ferry animals to different rescue organizations throughout the Midsouth (because all the rescues in our area were completely full at our last attempt, and our shelter was euthanizing animals immediately upon intake due to overcrowding).
It is not the responsibility of others to keep your animals off their property, it is YOUR responsibility to keep your animals ON your property. The same is true of cats, by the way.
Yes, it's horrible to shoot a dog. But it is even more horrible to have to be the person to do it. It's an image that haunts me, even if my husband has to pull the trigger (I simply can't do it). But is it acceptable to have my beloved chickens ravaged to death? Is it acceptable for someone's grandchild to be trampled by a 1900 pound draft horse trying to escape a dog nipping at her heels? I'd say those two very likely scenarios cause much more pain and suffering than a bullet to the brain of the dog or cat. So save your criticisms of farmers for trying to protect our animals that we love from YOUR animals that you neglect. If your dog or cat is shot on our property, you have no one to blame but yourself.