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Sheriff: Don't shoot dogs harassing wild game

Dec 8, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker is reminding residents that it is illegal to shoot at dogs that are harassing big game animals.

He said he issued a public service announcement Monday in response to a report that a private citizen had killed a dog that had been chasing wild game about two months ago on the west side of the county.

"We discovered it was a common understanding ... that a private citizen had some legal standing to do so, maybe even to the point of obligation," Hornecker said. "In fact within the Sheriff's (office), myself, I thought that was the case."

The person whose dog was killed "pressed the issue," however, prompting officials to study state statute, which indicates only peace officers or game wardens can discharge firearms in defense of wildlife.

"The statute does not give a private citizen specific legal foundation to do (that)," Hornecker said. "All you can do is report to the authorities if you have seen a dog injure or threaten big game animals."

The difficulty, he continued, is that the incident likely will be over by the time an official arrives at the scene. And Wyoming Statute 23-2-109 states a peace officer can only kill a dog that has threatened a big game animal "where the vicious character of the dog or dogs is manifest."

But even if the officer sees the harassment taking place, Hornecker said the animal won't necessarily be killed.

"If we can indeed locate an owner, we'll try to use that process first," he said.

Dog owners are responsible for controlling their pets, Hornecker said, noting that the same statute outlines penalties for anyone whose dog is seen harassing, chasing or injuring big game.

The statutes states a conviction for the offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, to which may be added imprisonment of up to six months when the offense is considered a low misdemeanor.

If the peace officer does kill the dog or pet in question, the statute also indicates a reasonable effort must be made to inform the animal's owner about the death and the circumstances.

Hornecker completed his press release with the phrase, "In memory of Ike." He confirmed Tuesday that was the name of the dog killed while chasing wild game.

He also confirmed that farmers and ranchers are allowed to dispatch dogs that are harassing livestock.

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