DOW defends shooting dog
A Westbank dog owner received a painful lesson in Colorado wildlife law recently. On a Friday morning last month Chelsea Challis’ 1-year-old Karelian bear dog, Koda, broke its chain and went for a run on Challis’ 250-acre ranch. At least an hour later, a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer shot Koda to stop her from chasing 50-60 elk on the property.Challis said she thinks the officer was hasty in shooting Koda. The officer, she said, made no attempt to contact her, even though he drove partially down her driveway get to Koda. She also said she thinks the officer was inhumane and insensitive in dumping Koda’s body at the Garfield County landfill without notifying her. The DOW said it acted in accordance with the law and in the best interest of the elk. The DOW officer was able to get between Koda and the elk a few times, but each time an elk moved from the heard, Koda chased it back in, said spokesman Randy Hampton. The DOW couldn’t notify Challis because Koda had a collar but no tags, he said. Both sides hope the incident draws attention to a problem throughout Colorado – and especially in Westbank. When it comes to protecting wildlife, the DOW, law enforcement and ordinary citizens have the right to kill dogs, Hampton said. Two Colorado statutes open the door for that protection, he said. One reads: “A Colorado wildlife officer or other peace officer may capture or kill any dog he or she determines to be harassing wildlife.”The next reads: “Nothing in this section shall make it unlawful to trap, kill, or otherwise dispose of bears, mountain lions, or dogs without a permit in situations when … it is necessary to prevent them from inflicting death or injury to big game and to small game, birds, and mammals.”The second statute is the one that allows anyone to kill a dog to protect wildlife, Hampton said. In Koda’s case, part of Challis’ complaint was that Koda was too small, at 35 pounds, to hurt the elk. But a dog doesn’t have to injure or even touch an elk to be harmful, especially in late winter, when the elk have used much of their fat reserves, Hampton said. “A dog doesn’t have to be physically large enough to do damage,” Hampton said. “Just harassment is enough to cause injury or death in that weakened state.”Wildlife officers can issues tickets when a dog chases wildlife, and if a dog’s actions kill an animal, the owner can face a fine of hundreds of dollars. If a pet kills an elk, the minimum fine is $700. If it’s a deer, the minimum fine is $500. “We don’t put this on the dog,” Hampton said. “It’s on the owners to take responsibility for this.”When a dog chases wildlife, the DOW would much rather write a ticket than shoot a dog, Hampton said, but officers will do what they have to protect deer and elk. And Westbank is no exception. “If we get back out there in a similar situation we will do what we are authorized to do,” Hampton said.
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