Editorial: Control your dogs

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A dog may be considered man’s best friend, but livestock owners may not concur.

In recent months, several Salt Spring farmers have reported that sheep and lambs have been killed or injured by maurading dogs. CRD animal control officer Wolfgang Brunnwieser confirmed this week that no deaths have been reported since the issue was publicized, but said 2018 has seen a big increase in the number of sheep killed by dogs over more recent years.

Newer island residents or visitors might assume living in a rural area means dogs can enjoy extra freedom when compared to an urban environment. In fact the opposite is true. For wildlife and livestock, being chased and attacked by a dog is a horrific fate, and Salt Spring has both wildlife and livestock in spades.

Longtime local farmer Sandy Robley detailed in last week’s Driftwood the emotional toll experienced by farmers whose animals are attacked, as well as what the animals are forced to endure. That’s on top of the financial losses farmers must absorb, and extra costs required to further protect their animals.

Salt Spring has a vast agricultural land base and numerous sheep. According to the 2017 Agricultural Land Use Inventory for Salt Spring Island, some 6,214 hectares (15,350 acres) are designated for farm activity and almost 200 farms are in operation. The inventory also counted some 560 “animal equivalent units” of sheep. Farms are spread throughout the island, so vulnerable animals could be located just about anywhere.

Owning a dog is a serious responsibility, and following the laws of any jurisdiction is critical. Those include licensing the dogs with local authorities — in our case the Capital Regional District — and keeping them under control at all times while off one’s own property.

While farmers are allowed to shoot dogs caught chasing their livestock, it is obviously not the most desirable outcome, and certainly one that is preventable if a dog’s owner is responsible.

Anyone who sees dogs running loose in any neighbourhood is advised to call the animal control office at 250-537-9414, take a photo, if possible, and record the date and time of the sighting.

Suffering by dogs, livestock and farmers can be prevented if everyone does their part.

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