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Can we shoot a dog that’s worrying our pheasants?

The dog chases the pheasants in our release-pen wood. The owner has made no attempt to stop this dog. Can we shoot it?

David Barrington Barnes
If you were to shoot this dog while it was in the act of breaking into the pen and attacking the poults, then you would have a defence to a civil claim by the animal?s owner.

Your defence would be that you were protecting your property.

Further, you would have a defence to a charge of causing criminal damage; you would in this instance say that you had lawful excuse to shoot the dog for the protection of your property.

Once your poults are out of the pen ? as I assume they are now ? they are considered to be wild birds and, as such, they cease to be your property.

It has been argued that a person who shoots a dog chasing wild birds or deer is committing the offence of criminal damage.

The counter-argument to this is that the right to shoot and take away game or deer on a man?s land belongs to him and has value in law.

Therefore, a landowner or occupier should be entitled to shoot a marauding dog to protect that right or interest, which is being diminished by the dog.

I have indeed procured the discontinuance of criminal damage proceedings against a dog-shooting gamekeeper by adducing evidence of the value of two male roe kids (on a stalking estate).

However, the arguments are extremely complex ? and, in addition, they are subject to a reasonableness test.

In another case, the dog?s owner consented to it being shot. In short, the shooting of a marauding dog really has to be a remedy of last resort.