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Animals are at the core of many, many farm operations, but even the grain farmer is likely to have a few animals or a farm dog around, and most anyone who farms is bound to encounter wild animals that impact the operation.  The rules that affect animals cover a swath of farm life as varied as the animals themselves and the activities that involve them.

A dog owner is liable for the action of his dog. Don't post "Beware of Dog" signs; believe it or not, if your dog was to injure someone, such signs might be used against you in court, as an admission that you knew you were dealing with a problem animal.  Your best advice is to control your animals.  You may kill a dog that is attacking or attempting to bite a human being. 
Every dog must have a rabies vaccination.  Any dog, cat or other animal which has bitten or attacked a person must be reported.  If rabies is suspected, animal-control officials can order the owner to confine the animal or it can be impounded by animal-control officials, who can hold the dog for ten (10) days and may then humanely destroy it.  If the dog is returned to its owner, the owner must pay fees for impoundment.

Note:  If you confine a non-livestock animal for suspected rabies (or any other reason), be aware that the Iowa Code makes it unlawful to "to fail to supply the animal during confinement with a sufficient quantity of food or water, or to fail to provide a confined animal with adequate shelter, or to torture, deprive of necessary sustenance, mutilate, beat, or kill such animal by any means which causes unjustified pain, distress or suffering."

It is illegal to abandon your pets or to allow them to run loose.  Dogs under six months of age, and all other dogs that are wearing a collar with attached tags showing a valid rabies vaccination, along with the name and address of the animal's owner, are presumed to be someone's property.  If these dogs are impounded, you must claim them, prove that they are current on vaccinations, and pay impoundment fees within seven days, or your dog could be destroyed.

Dogs not provided with a rabies vaccination tag are not presumed to be anyone's property. If a dog over six months of age is running loose and not wearing a valid rabies vaccination tag, it can be terminated by law enforcement.

If a stray dog is bothering your animals or livestock, you may kill even a dog that is wearing a collar with a rabies vaccination tag attached, when the dog is caught in the act of chasing, maiming, or killing any domestic animal or fowl (or when such a dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person). So, if your dog finds sport with the neighbor's flock of ducks, it may not be coming home.

Note:  You have to kill the dog, while it is in the act.  Shooting your neighbor's dog after it is done running your cattle through the fence is not allowed. Shooting it across a road opens you up to a criminal charge for reckless discharge of a firearm.

Liability for Damages Caused by a Dog

The owner of a dog is liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal; or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person, except when the person damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury. That means dogs biting people who are trespassing are not going to be in trouble.

You could also be held liable for damages to other property caused by your dog, if you allow it to run loose in violation of the law. 

For example, if your neighbor complains about your loose dog, but you do nothing to restrain it, and it goes over again and digs up her newly-planted (and costly) rose bed and shrubs, you may have to pay to replace the plantings.

Insurance companies are getting more aggressive about finding out whose dog was on the road when their insured vehicle was damaged.  An ill timed statement or post on Facebook/twitter or the what not could subject you to a claim for damages to a quarter panel as well as having to put ol Yeller in the ground at your expense.
The bottom line is think about how your dog acts in relationship to your operation.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019
  • Patrick B. Dillon
  • Jill Dillon
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Patrick B. Dillon enjoys finding solutions to legal issues and catching problems for clients. Pat practices in the Sumner office regularly represents clients in district, associate district and magistrate courts for agricultural, real estate, criminal and collection issues. He drafts wills and trusts, creates estate plans and helps clients through the probate process.
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Jill Dillon focuses on family law, estate planning and IRS matters. Jill is a University of Northern Iowa undergraduate (Political Science Cum Laude) and a Drake University Law School graduate. Jill spent extensive time advocating for low income tax payers in front of the IRS and the State of Iowa Department of Revenue while at Drake.

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