sent to my email address from another rancher in North Texas. Thanks Bud!
The fiercest lightning storm of the season spooked William Keefer’s three dogs and sent them running to his Ashland neighbor’s ranch last month. Energized by flashing lights and rolling thunder, the hairy trio allegedly committed the farm dog’s unpardonable sin – chasing livestock. Jackson County Animal Control issued four citations to Keefer and $2,400 worth of fines in the biggest enforcement case since Jackson County adopted stricter dog laws in August. But the dogs’ owner said his pets are not cow chasers – they did nothing more than escape their pen during the Sept. 17 lightning storm.
“I have horses, including a crippled pony, and a pig that can’t move,” said William Keefer, a former federal marshal. “If my dogs chased livestock, I wouldn’t be able to keep them. We got these dogs from the animal shelter and one of them is so afraid of things; he’s even afraid of cats.”
His neighbors have a different account of the dogs, however. “People in the city see their dog wagging his tail and happy in the morning,” said Mary Morris, a second-generation rancher “They don’t know that he’s been out with other dogs chasing livestock all night.” In the early morning hours of Sept. 17, Ashland equestrian Susan Hunt said she watched a dog pack chasing cows on the Morris Ranch until someone whistled from down below and the dogs left the pasture. “But nobody penned the dogs up and soon they were chasing again,” Hunt said. “I was working on a fence and the dogs saw me and started coming toward me. I yelled, ‘Go home,’ but instead they came up to the fence, got in my pasture and started chasing two young colts. The horses almost went through the fence.”
Hunt shooed the dogs off, calmed the young Arabians and drove to the Keefer’s house to confront the dog owner. She said it’s particularly easy for dogs to chase horses. “Horses are flight-driven animals, much more than cows, and it’s a dog’s nature to pursue,” Hunt said. Dogs can also kill a colt, rip a $5,000 mare’s hamstring or cause a leg injury if a galloping horse steps in a gopher hole, said Andy Lane, animal control senior officer for Jackson County.
“(Livestock chasing) is a fun and exciting thing for dogs, but it progressively gets worse,” Lane said. “Pretty soon they are bored with barking and chasing and then they take a nip. Then it creates an adrenaline rush.” After the lightning storm incident, Keefer sent the dogs to out-of-state homes. Keefer said the Jackson County animal control officer offered to waive the citations and fines if Keefer would turn the dogs over to be destroyed. But Keefer and his daughter, Tina, refused.
“It’s like a witness protection program,” Keefer said. “Those dogs are in a safe house outside of Oregon. “The county thinks it can solve problems by grabbing the dogs and killing them and the problem is over. But it’s a legal and moral issue.” Under the new law, dogs in the country must remain in their yard. If the dog isn’t trained to stay on the property, the pet must be fenced or tied. Livestock-chasing animals are subject to relocation or having a microchip imbedded in their body to track movements.
“The law certainly benefits ranchers,” Keefer said. Keefer said the fine was unreasonable – $2,400 for dog trespassing is a stiffer penalty than a drunk-driving fee. He also fears the law will be misused when a neighborhood quarrel arises. “If you don’t like your neighbor all you have to do is say, ‘His dog chased my horse or cow,’ ” Keefer said. But the lightning storm incident was not the first time the dog pack hounded the herd, Morris said. In August, dogs chased her cows to the corner of the pasture close to Interstate 5, causing a cow to jump the fence and enter the freeway.
“People stopped to help me get her back in the pasture but that’s a really awful thing to have happen,” Morris said of the cow that is valued at $750 and represents the family’s livelihood. “It put a lot of lives in jeopardy.” Dog owners must be responsible for their pets, said Hunt, who owns an Australian shepherd. “These dogs were allowed to run loose in a pack and they felt like they owned the field, like they had a right to hunt the pheasants, quail, possum, even the occasional coyote,” Hunt said. “They had a pack mentality.”
Morris agreed and said she doesn’t blame the dog. “It’s not the dog’s fault – he’s just doing what comes naturally,” Morris said. “It’s about being a responsible pet owner.” But just as important as responsible pet ownership is having balanced dog laws, Keefer said.
“We would not in any way run the human justice system like Jackson County and the state of Oregon does for dogs,” Keefer said. “The law states that any verbal complaint can have the animal control officers respond, seize the animals in question and kill them, with a very minimal appeal process – no due process of law, as we know it.”