Please do not ‘rescue’ livestock guardian dogs

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Wyo4news Staff, [email protected]

SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING — Everyone loves dogs. But some dogs are not pets. Over the years, livestock guard dogs have become an increasingly popular, and non-lethal, tool in livestock management. Ranchers in Wyoming depend on these special breeds to protect their livestock from predators.

But every year across the state, especially during the winter grazing season, a number of these unique creatures are taken from their security outposts on the Bureau of Land Management or national forest lands by those mistaking the animals for lost or abandoned pets.

“This time of year, many ranchers run their sheep or cattle on winter feed leases,” said Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Officer Chris Thomas.

While most have good intentions as dog lovers who just want to make sure the animals are OK, Thomas said accidentally removing the dogs, for any amount of time, threatens not only the livestock but also the canine’s welfare.

 

“Livestock guardian dogs are specifically bred and trained to protect cattle and sheep,” she said. “Removing them from their work assignments, for any amount of time, actually jeopardizes their temperament and training.”

In fact, under Wyoming law, “livestock guarding animals” enjoy special legal protections when compared to household pets. Except in cases of alleged negligence, the animals’ owners may actually be exempt from liability for any injury to a person or other animal by a guard dog “actively engaged in protecting livestock.”

“We just ask people to call first, instead of taking matters into their own hands,” sheriff’s office spokesperson Jason Mower said. “Don’t feed them, or pick them up, just make note of their location, and call dispatch’s non-emergency number so we can get an animal control officer in the area to assess the situation.”

According to Thomas, some of the most common breeds in Wyoming include the Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Central Asian Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Idaho Shag, and Border Collie.

“We also want people to know, the animals are well cared for,” she said. “Ranchers invest a lot of time and money into breeding and training them, and they’re an invaluable deterrent for predators on the open range.”