Questions from Tiffany’s Desk: What If Dogs Are Threatening My Livestock?

Question:  What can I do if dogs are threatening to harm or have harmed my livestock?

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Answer:  Texas has a statute that answers this exact question, the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 822.013.  This statute may be broken into three prongs.

First, the statute applies if dogs or coyotes either (a) is attacking, (b) is about to attack, or (c) has recently attacked covered animals.  As the statute makes clear, it applies only to situations where the animal is attacking, is about to attack or has recently attacked.  On the other hand, where a defendant killed dogs one month after they attacked his cattle, the court held the statute did not apply. See Bueckner v. Hamel, 886 S.W.2d 368 (Tex. App. Houston-1st Dist. 1994).

Second, covered animals include livestock, domestic animals, or fowls.  At least one Texas case has held that deer are not covered under the predecessor to this statute.  See Bueckner v. Hamel, 886 S.W.2d 368 (Tex. App. Houston-1st Dist. 1994).

Third, the act applies to the following persons:  (1) any person who witnessed the attack; (2) the attacked animal’s owner; or (3) a person acting on behalf of the attacked animal’s owner if the owner or person has knowledge of the attack.

If these three prongs are met, a person may kill the dog or coyote without liability for damages to the dog or coyote’s owner or keeper.  Further, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently held that this statute serves not only as a defense to civil liability, but is also a defense to criminal prosecution for cruelty to animals.   See Chase v. State, 448 S.W.3d 6 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).  Alternatively, a person may impound the dog or coyote and return it to its owner or to the local animal control authority.

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