- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Few legal options for dealing with deer-killing dogs
Dec 20, 2012 12:00 am
Back in the fall I was hunting on private land when I heard a commotion down in a nearby hollow – dogs barking and snarling, and the plaintive bleating of a deer in distress.
I hurried over to see what was going on, and stumbled onto terrible scene: a pack of dogs had a doe on the ground and was tearing her to pieces as she kicked and struggled.
I ran the pack off and dispatched the maimed doe to end her agony.
The dogs ranged from a giant mastiff to four or five mid-sized mixed breeds and a pint-sized beagle. They appeared to be well-fed, and most of them wore collars.
The doe had apparently been wounded earlier by a hunter’s bullet. I discovered a blood trail that the pack had followed to the doe, then launched its horrific attack.
I told the landowner about the incident and he wasn’t surprised. He said the dogs live on adjacent farms and residences and frequently run loose on his land. He said they chase deer year-round and take a toll on new-born fawns in the spring.
I called the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Law Enforcement Division and asked what could be done about such situations.
“No one is allowed to harm a dog, even if it’s feral (partly wild) or collarless and caught in the the act of killing a deer,” said TWRA enforcement officer Fred Funte. “State law requires that the dog must be captured and held in a pound or other facility while advertisements are run, advising the owner about where the animal is.”
But capturing a free-roaming dog is virtually impossible in the outdoors – and attempting to do so could be dangerous. An animal vicious enough to kill a deer could inflict serious bites to an amateur dog catcher. And even if the dog could be caught, then comes the task of confining it and the expense of running an ad.
Reporting deer-killing dogs to authorities rarely does any good. Even when confronted by an eye-witness, most dog owners insist their “family pet” couldn’t possibly have been involved. At best, the owner will promise to keep the dogs restrained – but seldom does.
Ironically, it is illegal for hunters to use dogs to chase deer in Tennessee, and any hunter caught doing so will be cited by the TWRA. But when it comes to controlling the dogs themselves, Funte says the Agency’s hands are tied.
“Most towns and communities have some sort of leash law regarding free-roaming dogs,” he says. “But that’s an issue that is up to each municipality, not to the TWRA.”
Funte insists that free-roaming dogs don’t take a drastic toll on the deer population. He says one wildlife study in Georgia suggested that such dogs prey primarily on the weak and the wounded.
Based on personal experience I don’t buy that, especially where residential areas border hunting land and free-roaming dogs run rampant. I suspect they are responsible for a lot of the predation blamed on coyotes. But even if such incidents are relatively rare, they’re still unacceptable.
As disturbing as it is to witness dogs killing a deer, I remind myself that it’s really not the dogs’ fault. They are instinctively responding to their wolf genes. Chasing deer is in their DNA. The problem lies with the dogs’ owners.
It’s time to toughen the laws and start holding irresponsible owners accountable for the damage done by their so-called pets.