I really do hate it when people start talking about shooting dogs.
We humans have mixed feelings about dogs. We’ve made it illegal to be mean to them, but if they bother us it’s OK to shoot them.
On the one hand, they’re our best friends. We write stories about their courage and perseverance — Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, White Fang, Greyfriar’s Bobby.
On the other, we disparage them. “You dog!” we’ll say, and not in a complimentary way. Or “Doggone it!” We call the hottest time of year, when everything goes stagnant, the “dog days of summer.”
“He was shot down in the street like a dog,” is an old saying.
There was even a movie a few years ago called Shooting Dogs.
In the country, it’s easy to have dogs. They can be any size, any colour, any shape.
Country people like to let their dogs run free, to enjoy the wide-open spaces. Which leads, inevitably, to them trespassing on somebody else’s wide-open spaces.
Just as we humans love our own children but aren’t necessarily fussy about anyone else’s, we figure our own dogs are OK but other people’s — not so much.
So, “just shoot ‘em” if they become a problem. And so the Thompson-Nicola Regional District is currently wrestling with putting a dog control bylaw in place. I say currently, which is correct if you extend the definition of currently to go back 30 years or so.
Always, dogs in rural areas have been an issue. And, always, the answer has been, just shoot ‘em. Some communities in northern Canada have annual “dog shoot days” for population control on stray dogs. Things haven’t gotten nearly that bad here, but dogs have their detractors.
Only half the regional districts in B.C. have animal control bylaws. Usually, cost and effectiveness are the reasons for not having them.
Instead, as a TNRD director once put it, rural areas are governed by a “three ‘S’” vigilante system for dogs: “Shoot, shovel and shut up.”
Land owners aren’t allowed to shoot other people’s dogs any time they please, but sometimes the lines get fuzzy. Technically, a dog must be on your property harassing your livestock before you can shoot it.
A few years ago, for example, a Barnhartvale dog was shot by a man who claimed it was chasing his horses. The dog’s 12-year-old owner was devastated — she said the dog often romped with horses in the area and meant them no harm.
“I do hope that some day there will be better laws for farmers to protect their livestock,” she wrote in a letter to the editor.
This week, a TNRD director reiterated that the remedy espoused by many rural dwellers is to “call their friends — Remington and Winchester” when dog control is needed.
“The standard method of dealing with dangerous dogs in rural areas — not downtown Clearwater, Merritt or Barriere — is, if your neighbour’s dog is that bad, you shoot it.”
The trouble — and that’s what the TNRD is struggling with now — comes in the interpretation of what’s bad and what’s overkill, if you’ll excuse the expression. As the experience in Barnhartvale showed, rough justice may be quick but not always right.
It’s nice not to have too many rules out there, but it’s damn hard on the dogs.