My friend loves raising chickens holistically and has a wonderful yard for them. Chain link fencing protected with hawk netting covers at least an acre of healthy grass. There are two huge hen houses, plenty of shade, spots for dustbaths and an efficient watering system. Her chickens are happy, healthy egg-layers – or at least they were. Earlier this month, several of the neighbor’s dogs snuck onto her property. They threw themselves repeatedly at the gate until the latch twisted and they were able to squeeze in between gate and fence. After gaining entry, they proceeded to slaughter most of my friend’s flock; not stopping to eat birds, but just enjoying the game. The hens not killed were grievously injured, and while she is nursing a few of the birds back to health, several had to be euthanized.
Were the dogs involved in this mass destruction evil? No, they were dogs doing what comes naturally to them. The issue isn’t the dogs, it’s the owners, who allowed the dogs to run loose.
Loose dogs create many problems. Often, they will join up with other loose dogs to create a pack. These packs can be dangerous. We were once awakened in the middle of the night be the screams of our miniature horses. When we responded to their panicked cries, we found a pack of neighborhood dogs threatening them. The cattle rancher across the street from us has lost calves to the pack. These weren’t hungry, homeless stray dogs; I recognized one of them as a neighbor’s Golden Retriever that I had petted and played with. However, when dogs form a pack, they often revert to less domesticated and sometimes dangerous behaviors. In addition to attacking barnyard animals, packs of dogs will attack other pets, will sometimes attack people.
Free-roaming dogs create other problems as well. They knock over garbage cans and leave trash strewn over lawns. They steal and/or destroy shoes, tools, newspapers, packages and other items people leave on their front porches. They harass dogs left outdoors on runners or within fenced yards and deposit urine and feces throughout their neighborhoods. No one enjoys stepping into a pile of dog doo, but when you step into a pile on your lawn and you don’t even own a dog, it can be very frustrating.
Safety is also a concern for dogs allowed to roam. Depending on your location and the size of the dog, predators such as coyotes, alligators, foxes and large raptors can all pose threats, as can rattlesnakes, porcupines and skunks. Other dogs can also pose hazards. My aunt’s German Shepherd was lying peacefully on her own front porch when a smaller dog squeezed through the fence and ran up to her. Countess was protective of her territory, and nearly skinned the little dog. My aunt felt awful about it, and the owners of the small dog were quite angry, but their dog was in my aunt’s yard instead of home where she belonged.
Vehicles are another danger loose dogs face. I was horrified a few years ago when I was driving down a road at night and a beautiful German Shorthair Pointer dashed out of a roadside ditch and in front of my car before I could even apply my brakes. The dog was killed instantly, and I was heartbroken. Other people I know who have hit dogs have also been traumatized by the event.
One of the reasons the southern states have such a dog overpopulation problem is that unsprayed and unneutered dogs are allowed to roam, find one another, and reproduce. When the female turns up pregnant the owners often dump her at the humane society, or wait until she’s delivered and drop off the babies.
I have been told, frequently, when trying to convince someone that their dog should not be allowed to run free, that it’s just “what we do” in the South. While some traditions are good things, others need to be seen as archaic. Free-roaming dogs may have been acceptable at one time, but now that people live so much closer to one another, dogs need to be confined. Your dog should be inside with you or safely contained within a fenced-in yard, and walked on a leash. For his sake, your peace of mind, and your desire to be a good neighbor, please contain your dog!