So…friends of ours (let’s call them Sue and Don) have been raising chickens and quail on their property in a quiet, rural area of CT. They’ve been doing this for about 5 years for the fresh eggs and the fresh poultry. We aren’t talking about a full barnyard here; about 20 chickens and 100 quail. Don lets the chickens roam the property and it’s interesting – they aren’t very smart but they follow him like faithful little children and as soon as it starts to get to twilight time, they all just head to the coop. No prompting, no calling.
It’s a quiet property – large enough and heavily wooded enough that they don’t see their neighbors. As you’d expect with that kind of area there are predators - fox, coyotes, bobcat, possibly mountain lion. Other large-scale animals like moose and black bear as well.
Sue and Don tried raising pigs once. A bobcat took one of the 2 pigs they had before they could fully enclose the pen. They successfully raised the other one but the effort to keep the predators at-bay was too much so they won’t do that again.
The overall effort to keep the chickens safe took its toll this past weekend.
Don had been noticing that something was trying to get into the chicken coop - evidence of scratching and clawing at the door to the coop, scattered feathers, lots of chicken noises at odd times of day - that sort of thing. So whenever he’s been outside with them – he’s carried a sidearm as a precaution (he is licensed to carry and owns his firearms legally). This past Saturday it came to a head with disastrous consequences.
Don saw what he believed to be a coyote in the chicken coop; the chickens were roaming but there were a few inside the coop and he lost track of them. As soon as Don noticed he called out and the “coyote” took off, chicken in its mouth. So he did what he feared he’d have to do – shot the predator.
Except it wasn’t a coyote; it was a neighbor’s pet Husky. Which in the heat of the moment, thru the rage of losing his livestock, Don saw as a coyote.
Don thought nothing of it; he killed the coyote, lost one chicken and got all the others safely back into the coop. It wasn’t until the next day that he learned it was a dog.
The police were called because the neighbors said they heard shots coming from next door the day before and then, finding their own dog dead in the woods with gunshots, made the obvious assumption. The police thoroughly investigated and found that Don was within his rights to shoot the dog; the state statute indicates a homeowner can legally shoot any animal it deems a threat to their property or livestock. The fact that it was, in this case, a family pet – doesn’t matter to the law.
So – no charges will be brought on our friends. The police said there was ample evidence on the property that the dog took the chicken – evidence that lead into the woods where the dog was, eventually, found.
The dog owner is, as you can imagine, upset. Enough so that he called the press…interviews took place and newspaper articles were written; there was a report on the local news last night. These reports aren’t entirely unsympathetic to Don but they aren’t exactly singing his praises either. The dog owner is quoted liberally, multiple times, about their beautiful, sweet pet and the horror at how he died. The police continue to stand by their investigation and the laws despite the fact that the owner insists vociferously that charges should be filed.
In fact the dog owner is in violation of the law – the dog was not leashed and was roaming freely.
But then again – Sue and Don are in violation of a different law, one they didn’t know about. You can’t have livestock on property less than 3 acres in size; they live on one acre.
It’s a sticking point that could become problematic. Don is getting rid of the birds; by the end of this week they will be placed with someone else in another town. In the meantime, Sue and Don have their heads in the sand about what will likely happen to them.
They believe that because Don acted within the law in the shooting…the dog owner has no legal rights to sue them.
And I believe they are very wrong.
A lawyer will take the case for sure; pain and suffering=dollar signs. With the atmosphere in CT about guns still on high-alert in the wake of the Sandy Hook School nightmare this is a story ripe for plucking and making an example of an innocent gun owner trying to defend his property against – a dog.
Not a dog off a leash, roaming free and attacking livestock.
But a sweet, family pet. Accompanied by the requisite pictures of fun family time with the cuddly 2 year old Husky taking center stage.
I worry for our friends. At best it will be a nuisance lawsuit, designed to make their lives miserable and cost them money on their own lawyers that they can ill-afford to waste. At worst - they get just the wrong judge and things could derail swiftly and cost them far more than lawyers’ fees.
It’s a scary and sad situation. They feel awful about the dog, about losing the chickens. They are actually contemplating moving out of the area (something they have only casually discussed in the past few years but are now seriously considering; they are going to a few open houses this weekend) to get away from what will likely be the world’s most hostile neighbors.
I pray for them – for the dog owner to settle down, accept his own culpability in not keeping his beloved pet leashed and just move on. For Sue and Don, that they are able to return to the quiet life they used to have, with no reporters hounding them, with no one passing swift judgment on them. For their physical safety as well – for their home address was published in the newspaper articles.
They want it all to just go away. And I pray for that above all else.