Protect Livestock Guardian Dogs in Utah

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Throughout the magical landscape of the West, you can find livestock guardian dogs (LGD) protecting their flocks. For over two thousand years, LGD have happily served their owners, providing a non-lethal form of predator management. Livestock Guardian Dog is an umbrella term for a number of breeds (Great Pyrenees, Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd, etc) that protect against predators such as coyotes, wolves, bears and cougars. These dogs are highly intelligent, very instinctual, extremely loyal and incredibly brave. 

Tragically, the Western states are experiencing a number of neglected, abandoned and culled LGD on public lands. This issue has received local and national media attention in Utah as demonstrated by the recent coverage of a female and her litter left behind in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures, followed by two deceased dogs, in Cache County, Utah. One was shot in the hip and left to die and the other was found deceased, presumably by starvation and/or the sub-zero temperatures. Incidents like these demonstrate the need for change and accountability. 

There are industry recommendations that are widely available and can be found on industry association websites and heard at industry conferences. Industry experts recommend providing food/feeding stations, water, microchipping, medical care, vaccinations, spay/neuter, and socialization/training. However, these recommendations are often not put into practice. Starving and injured dogs as well as mothers and their young are often abandoned. This results in a heavy burden on non-profit rescues, already underfunded animal shelters, local municipalities and the communities they serve as well as conflicts with the public on public lands, putting the welfare of the animals and the safety of the public at risk. There remains a social responsibility to assure and to improve the work conditions of LGDs, as with all working dogs.

Livestock Guardian Dogs currently do not have any enforceable protections and there is overwhelming support to enact legal protections for them. LGD are being managed using the same subjective and vague animal husbandry practices since the 70's which have become outdated in today's advanced and humane society. We urge the State of Utah to reclassify livestock guardian dogs from livestock to a guardian/working dog category and enact protections that require food/water, medical care, microchipping as well as prohibiting breeding at will on open range and fines for abandonment. On public lands, conflicts with the public could be minimized, if not entirely avoided, by enacting these mandates that could easily be tied to grazing permits to ensure the safety of the public. Not only would this improve the wellbeing and working conditions of the dog but it would protect the investment of the producer as well. 

*Utah residents* you can make a difference for these dogs by personally contacting your local legislator. For templates, infographics, powerpoints and to find local representative contact information, go to: https://www.coalitionforlgd.org/how-you-can-help 

For more information visit: www.coalitionforlgd.org