Farming: What rights do you have when a dog mauls your stock?

The topic was recently raised online.
The topic was recently raised online. Photo credit: Getty

For many farmers it's a no-brainer. If a dog is caught mauling your stock it's asking to be shot.

But the issue is far from black and white and it seems people's understanding of what their rights are in such a situation varies from farm to farm.

Recently, the topic was raised in a post on the popular NZ Farming Facebook page, leading to a flurry of discussion about what exactly is and is not allowed.

"Stock (ewes in lamb) have been mauled by a neighbouring dog/dogs caught in the act, owner has taken responsibility, my question is are you LEGALLY allowed to go and put down the dogs or do they have to be on your land?" asked one of the page's followers.

The question received hundreds of replies, with commenters suggesting everything from holding fire, to shooting the dog wherever they find it, to shooting the dog's owner.

So what are your rights when a neighbour's dog kills your stock?

According to Bill Kohi, national president of the New Zealand Institute of Animal Management, you are only allowed to kill a dog if it's on your property and you catch it in the act.

"The law allows you to either seize - so catch that dog - or if that's not possible you are entitled to shoot the dog - destroy the dog - as long as it's done humanely. You can't do both," Kohi told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Monday.

"So you can't catch the dog and then put it down. If you catch the dog in the process you've got to hold on to it and you must surrender it to a dog control officer who then will take over for the investigation and take the appropriate action. 

"Once the dog's been caught, the only body that can order the dog to be destroyed is a district court."

Kohi said there was lots of confusion over whether police or dog control could come and destroy the dog: "They can't".

"Once it's caught and stopped from attacking the stock then it must be handed over and the process goes through the district court."

The "easy rule of thumb", Kohi said, was if the dog's at-large and can't be caught and the only way to stop the attack is to kill it, then you are within your rights to do so.

"But if you can catch the dog and secure it then you must do that and then hand it over to the appropriate authorities."

When it comes to tracking the dog off your own property, Kohi's advice was to hold fire, even though in some cases you could still be allowed to shoot it.

"You've got to be careful. You've got to comply with a whole lot of other laws as well, including firearms legislation, animal welfare legislation, so there's lots of things that come into play. 

"You can track a dog across a property if it's mauling your sheep and it takes off but my advice would be if it leaves your property you probably want to call the police or your local council for dog control to come out," Kohi said. 

Once the dog is back on its own turf your only option is to call dog control and ask them to investigate, Kohi said.