Working LGD provide a crucial role in protecting livestock and demonstrating that we can coexist with wildlife predators, which are an important part of keeping our ecosystems healthy. We support the use of LGD as a key component in non-lethal predator management. Most importantly, our focus is advocate for proven humane management practices that improve the well being of the LGD.
Research from Texas A&M Livestock Guardian Dog Program and the
American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Recommended Best Management Practices for Livestock Protection Dogs explain the benefits of management methods such as providing basic care, microchipping, vaccinations and dewormers, spay/neuter, and proven socialization and bonding.
When these recommendations are not put into practice, it results in dogs that are vulnerable to neglect or left behind and taken to a shelter. Mismanagement often leads to a feral dog that is at risk of being culled. Unfortunately, many LGD are not fitted with identification. These situations pose risks to public safety and negatively impacts underfunded animal shelters and the communities they serve.
Farm flock owners and homesteaders can also have conflicts with neighbors. ASI's best practices are recommended in combination with use of other non-lethal predator management methods to prevent a failed LGD.
Fortunately, there are solutions. LGDs in need could be minimized,
if not entirely eliminated, by implementing recommended practices that address the root of the problem, educating the public about their use and how they differ from companion ownership.
Microchipping/collar and sterilization for dogs used on open range would ensure that no unwanted litters are born and no adults would be left behind. Sterilization should be used for population management rather than culling, which is considered inhumane.
Proven bonding and socialization practices will decrease roaming and public safety risks and increase livestock protection. Providing proper nutrition, vaccinations, parasite control and medical care will greatly improve the well-being of the working dogs and minimize situations of neglect and cruelty.
Findings from a study concluded in the 80's indicated that 75% of open range LGD died before the age of three. Data showed that 57% died from accidents such as getting run over or poisoned. The study also showed that 33% of deaths were culls (owners killing their dogs because they didn’t like how they were behaving), and 9% of deaths were attributed to disease. Implementing current and humane animal husbandry practices would prevent these types of premature deaths.
Educating the public on the uses of LGDs and what to do if they encounter one is crucial. On public lands, LGDs can be mistaken as lost and the stress caused by separating them from their livestock can be detrimental to a working LGD. However, there are situations in which the dog is in need. Contact information for overseeing government agencies should be posted for the public to report concerns.
1) Inspire and educate large and small producers, homesteaders and
the public on the benefits of improved management methods such as sterilization, proven socialization and bonding methods and GPS collars in addition to basic wellness plans. Our goal is to inspire the use of livestock guardian dogs as they were originally intended - as partners!
2) Establish modern, proven and humane accepted animal husbandry practices and encourage support for them. Define animal cruelty as it relates to working dogs and advocate for legal protections that prohibit that cruelty, such as a "Humane Treatment for Working Dogs Act".
3) Develop partnerships with supporting associations to create sheepherder training and livestock guardian dog certification programs, both of which are encouraged by the American Sheep Industry Association and the Bureau of Land Management as well as public education campaigns that include posting signs and distributing flyers where LGDs are used.
4) Encourage agricultural operations to achieve A Greener World's Certified Animal Welfare Approved certification.
When guidelines to protect working dogs are lacking or legal protections against cruelty are nonexistent, it devalues the life and role of the working dog and communicates to society that they are not relevant to the well-being of the community. As with Police K9's, service dogs and SAR dogs, we believe that they deserve well-founded management practices and protections parallel to the incredible service they provide.