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Know the Law Before Letting Your Pets Run Free
By Linda Nelson, Dallas County Exension Education Director

Sections 351.25 through 351.28 of the Iowa Code contain legal guidelines regarding a farmer's right to destroy unconfined dogs or cats. Local jurisdictions such as counties also may have regulations on the treatment of domesticated animals.

Any person or peace officer within his or her jurisdiction may kill any dog or cat that is not wearing a collar with a rabies vaccination tag attached. According to Section 351.27 of the Iowa Code, a dog wearing its rabies vaccination tag may be killed if caught in the act of "worrying, chasing, maiming, or killing any domesticaed animals, fowl, or when such dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person." In addition, the dog's owner could be liable for damages.

Will the killing of an unconfined dog or cat always be lawful? An animal that is merely trespassing but has a rabies vaccination tag should be contained and the owners contacted. However, if it is not tagged, the law permits destruction of the animal.

In any situation in which the destruction of a dog or cat seems predertermined or done inhumanely under unreasonable circumstances, the killer may be liable for harm done and charged with a misdemeanor. It is important that the destruction is not an act of retaliation or that ignorance of the law is not used as an attempt to avoid the truth.

Allowing cats and dogs to run free in the country seems ideal for pets. The risk to dog, in particular, may be greater than acreage owners want to take. Protect your dog by having it vaccinated for rabies. Be sure to attach the tag to your dog's collar.

It is great fun for dogs to chase animals such as sheep and chickens. Their nature is to attack and kill when they chase. If you have neighbors with animals that might entice your family dog, you should consider confinement methods that protect your family pet from death and you from legal woes.

--Legal information for this article was provided by John Baker, an attorney for Iowa Concern



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