SPENCERVILLE — How deadly are domestic dogs to farm livestock when compared with wild predators like coyotes, wolves, foxes and weasels? Not very deadly at all, based on the informal recollection of municipal officials familiar with livestock losses inflicted by dogs.
“Dog kills are certainly rare” in the Township of South Stormont, according to the Cornwall-area municipality’s long-time clerk, Loriann Harbers. “In my time here, which has been quite a while, I can only recall two,” Harbers added.
Township of Edwardsburgh-Cardinal Clerk Rebecca Williams also described dog-inflicted kills as “very, very rare.” Ditto for officials in South Dundas Township and Prince Edward County.
Rural municipal clerks would know. The compensation process begins with an investigation and report by a municipally-appointed livestock ‘valuer,’ followed by approval at the local council table and a municipal payout to the farmer. The province, in turn, reimburses the municipality, under the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program.
Wild predators picked off 2,347 farm animals in the last provincial fiscal year, at a cost of over $893,000 to Ontario taxpayers, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
But the valuer also has the option of checking a box to indicate that a dog was responsible for a dead farm animal. In that case, the municipality still pays but without provincial reimbursement, as per a separate law, the Protection of Livestock and Poultry from Dogs Act. As those claims don’t involve the province, there isn’t a single clearinghouse of data about livestock killed by dogs.
That means the best evidence is anecdotal. Winchester-area livestock valuer Rick Scheepers said he’s never come across a dog kill in 10 years of assessing predation losses on local farms in his area.
The carcass of an animal killed by a dog is different from one involving a wild predator, which always goes for the throat, he said. “A dog kind of plays with the animal, so they’ll go for a leg or they’ll run it to death, where a coyote will go for the throat. A coon, when they kill a chicken, they’ll go for the throat.
“A dog will run the animal and bite him on the leg, and bite him on the hip. It’s not their instinct.”
Dogs, especially in packs, are more cruel than their wild counterparts because “they don’t know how to kill properly,” he added.
Lambs and sheep killed by coyotes comprise the majority of claims Scheepers says.
He offered this tip for farmers with a newly killed livestock: Don’t move the carcass. “I can’t investigate if they disturb the evidence,” he said, recalling how one farmer was out of luck when she loaded up a wheelbarrow with 20 dead ornamental chickens.