This is in response to a letter to the editor by Christina Dahl-Sesby in the Feb. 28 edition of the Journal of this year titled “Protect livestock from dogs.” Sesby makes a strong case for livestock owners but puts the entire burden for preventing the harming of livestock upon pet owners. Yes, it is indeed true that Washington state and San Juan County laws allow dogs to be shot for specific reasons.
Unfortunately, for pet owners, there is no provision in these statutes for any kind of due process to investigate the circumstances and evidence leading to the killing of a pet dog. So, in effect, dogs can be shot for trespassing, solely at the discretion of a farmer, buried and forgotten, with no effective accountability to local law enforcement or notification to the pet owner. I am sure most ethical livestock owners also have pets themselves and would not be so cruel as to kill a dog without extreme cause and before taking all possible nonlethal means to drive away the dog and notifying the dog’s owner. I am also sure there are irresponsible dog owners who let them roam and are unresponsive to a farmer’s complaint. If San Juan County had a trained and certified animal control officer, such as neighboring Skagit County has, or at the very least a designated trained deputy sheriff with investigative authority, most all these issues could be resolved to the benefit of both livestock and pet owners. Our animals are “family.” My greatest fear is having my beloved dog get out the door and stretch out for a run as dogs are born to do. My fear is no less important than that of a livestock owner. The burden to take appropriate preventive measures should fall upon all of us.
Many other states have much more humane animal welfare and control laws on their books. Washington state and San Juan County can do better. This is no longer a wild frontier. There are approximately 2,300 registered dogs in our county, which is probably a significant undercount. I think most of the dogs’ owners’ families would share my fears.