Understanding Your Liability for Shooting a Dog That Was Harassing Your Livestock

If a dog was harassing your livestock and you shot it, the owner of the dog may try to hold you liable for the dog's death. To fight the claim, you need a skilled animal lawyer in your corner. Here is a look at how such an expert can help.

1. Establish the legality of your actions

Laws regarding shooting dogs vary throughout the country. In For example, in South Australia, if a dog gets into a paddock where you are keeping livestock, you are legally allowed to injure or destroy that dog. However, in other areas of the country, the law varies, or it is more ambiguous. To illustrate, in New South Wales, the law reads, "any person may lawfully seize a dog if that action is reasonable and necessary for the prevention of damage to property." If the laws are ambiguous, an animal lawyer can argue that your actions were reasonable and necessary.

2. Act as an animal expert

Animal lawyers are experts in the law, and because they argue cases related to animals constantly, they also understand a lot about these creatures. That makes them suited to creating a case that is based on facts. For example, say you shot a dog because you knew that it was exposing your livestock to undue stress. An animal lawyer likely understands how stress affects livestock, and he or she can put together a case that amplifies your position. Because they focus on these cases, they also have connections with expert witnesses as needed.

3. Investigate the dog owner's liability

If a dog owner is trying to hold you liable for the death of their dog, an animal lawyer can argue that the owner was in the wrong. The structure of this argument will vary based on the laws in the area. For example, South Australia has laws that dogs must be restrained by a leash or a kennel at all times, but there are exceptions for guide dogs and dogs used for herding or livestock management.

If the dog you shot was not legally obligated to be restrained and the owner was just about to call it back before you shot it, his or her lawyer will argue that you acted too hastily. In turn, your lawyer must argue that your actions were within the scope of the law and that the dog's owner lacked control and was truly the liable party. If relevant, an animal lawyer can even help you counter-sue the dog owner for damages related to your livestock or even for pain and suffering in some cases.