Dog Attacks on Sheep and What the Ohio Revised Code Says

Joy Aufderhaar, OSU Extension, Agriculture Program Assistant, Shelby County

After 30 years of our family raising market sheep, this past April we had a first… our ewes and lambs were attacked by dogs. We have had many close calls with coyotes and stray dogs, but never an actual attack. A family friend witnessed the attack and contacted my husband. After receiving the call and knowing my husband would arrive at the scene before I would, I began to worry about his comment, “looks like we will be adding a couple of dogs to our compost pile”. I did not know our legal rights to protect our livestock and in this day in age with people filing lawsuits for some of the craziest things I was worried my husband’s actions would get us in trouble in the end. So what rights do we have to protect our livestock?

The following are statements taken from the Ohio Revised Code that will better explain our rights to protect our livestock. To view the Ohio Revised Code Section 955: Dogs, in its entirety go to

What are you rights if you are witnessing an attack in progress?
Under 955.28 a dog(s) may be killed for certain acts and the owner is liable for damages. Section 955.261 of the Revised Code states, “a dog that is chasing or approaching in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, that attempts to bite or otherwise endanger, or that kills or injures a person or a dog that chases, threatens, harasses, injures, or kills livestock, poultry, other domestic animal, or other animal, that is the property of another person, except a cat or another dog, can be killed at the time of that chasing, threatening, harassment, approaching, attempt, killing, or injury. If, in attempting to kill such a dog, a person wounds it, the person is not liable to prosecution under the penal laws that punish cruelty to animals.”
Who is liable for damages in a dog attack? Under 955.28 (B), “the owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog”.

What if the dog is not seen or captured?
Under 955.29 Claim of Owner, “any owner of an animal that the owner believes has a fair market value of ten dollars or more and that has been injured or killed by a dog not belonging to the owner or harbored on the owner’s premises, in order to be eligible to receive compensation from the dog and kennel fund, shall notify a member of the board of county commissioners or dog warden within three days after the loss or injury has been discovered. A commissioner who is notified shall immediately notify the dog warden of the loss or injury. The warden shall investigate or have the loss or injury investigated promptly, and the person making the investigation shall provide the owner with duplicate copies of the claim form authorized by section 955.36 of the Revised Code and assist the owner in filling it out.”

What if the dog owner is known?
Under 955.30 Action to recover for loss or injury, “if the owner of the dog causing the loss or injury described in section 955.29 of the Revised Code is known, the county prosecutor shall bring an action to recover from the owner of the dog whatever compensation is paid from the dog and kennel fund for the loss or injury if in the prosecutor’s judgment the damage can be collected.”

What if a dog attacks a registered flock?
Under 955.32 Registered stock, “If the animal that has been killed or injured as described in section 955.29 of the Revised Code is registered in any accepted association of registry, the owner, or the owner’s employee or tenant, shall submit with the claim form the registration papers showing the animal’s lines of breeding, age, and other matters. If the animal is the offspring of registered stock and is eligible for registration, the registration papers showing the breeding of the offspring shall be submitted.”

How is the payment of claims determined and processed?
Under 955.35 Payment of claims, “The board of county commissioners, at the next regular meeting after claims in accordance with section 955.29 of the Revised Code have been submitted, shall examine the same and may hear additional testimony or receive additional affidavits in regard thereto and may allow the amount previously certified by the dog warden , or a part thereof, or any amount in addition thereto, as it may find to be just, but in no event shall the amount allowed exceed the lesser of five hundred dollars per animal or the uninsured amount of the loss or injury. The board shall make the final determination of the fair market value of an animal that is the subject of a claim.”

What if the attack was determined to be made by coyotes?
For claims for value of animals injured or killed by coyote see 955.51 to 955.53 of the Revised Code.

So what happened in our dog attack experience?
My husband did beat me home that day, but the two dogs were gone. My husband called the veterinarian and I called the sheriff’s office who directed me to the animal shelter to page the dog warden. Our family friend who witnessed the attack did take a picture of the dogs with his cell phone and once the necessary calls were made, a little search party found the dogs two blocks down the road and they were captured and brought back to our place to await the dog warden’s arrival.

We had one ewe lamb badly injured and deiced to put her down. Skin from one of our show lambs’ had been torn badly down both sides and required sutures. After about seven days of antibiotics and pain medicines to fight the fever, infection, and inflammation, the lamb has made almost a full recovery minus the scars and weight loss.

Between the dog warden and our insurance company, the investigation and paperwork was completely taken care of and almost six weeks after the attack the owner of the dogs gave us a check for the loss of the ewe lamb and vet. costs and treatment for the four other lambs that were injured.

As a result, we purchased a Great Pyrenees puppy two weeks after the incident and even though she is only six months old she has a done a great job of letting us know when someone or something is near the sheep. Below are other ways to protect your flock taken from the Helping Producers Manage Predation Guide Issued October 2002 by USDA Wildlife Services.

Guard Animals
In increasing numbers, livestock producers are using guard animals in their pastures and on open ranges to prevent predator attacks. Guard animals include dogs, donkeys, llamas, and mules. Dogs are by far the most popular of the protective animals, although llamas, which guard by intimidation, are also gaining favor with producers. The most effective guard dogs are Eurasian breeds, such as the Akbash and Great Pyrenees. A good livestock guarding dog stays with the animals without harming them and aggressively repels predators. A guard dog is not a herding dog but rather a full-time member of the flock that has bonded with the animals in the herd, usually sheep. Guard dogs don’t solve the problem, however; they just prevent isolated attacks. In their efforts to protect livestock, guard dogs are also vulnerable to attack themselves. The number of dogs needed to protect a flock depends on its size, the local terrain, and the livestock species onsite.

Excluding dogs/coyotes by putting up fencing, especially in large areas, is expensive but can offer some protection. Many dogs/coyotes, however, learn to dig deeper or climb higher to defeat a fence. To be effective, the fence should be about 5.5 feet high to keep the predators from jumping over, and a buried wire apron or barbed wire at ground level can discourage digging. Producers can also install electric fencing to keep predators from climbing over. Livestock managers should carefully consider a variety of factors, such as the type of terrain and size of the pasture, before deciding whether to build a fence. Fencing is most likely to be cost effective when the potential for predation is high and fencing can be incorporated with other means of predator management. For example, guard dogs and fencing used together achieve a higher rate of success than either alone. Effective fencing, however, can impede the movements of other wildlife and should be installed only after a professional wildlife assessment.

Frightening Devices
Loud noises, lights, and repellants can also be helpful in scaring off predators. Cougars, wolves, coyotes, and other animals are easily frightened by strange odors, sights, and sounds. Using these methods in combination can work even better. For example, producers can use propane cannons, sirens, and radios with sound amplifiers to scare away predators lurking around pastures or open rangelands. While these measures can be effective, their benefits are often short lived because predators can adapt to new repellants and devices quite rapidly.

For more on protecting you livestock please see the following resources:

  • Ohio Revised Code Section 955: Dogs (Coyotes)
  • Wildlife Services: Helping Producers Manage Predation
    United States Department of Agriculture
  • Livestock Series: Management
    Livestock Guard Dogs, Llamas and Donkeys No. 1.218
    Colorado State University Extension

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