By Jessi Gower
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Livestock and poultry owners in rural areas of Virginia may find some solace in the coming weeks if Senate passes House Bill 54, which guarantees monetary compensation for owners whose livestock and poultry that have been killed or injured by dogs.
Virginia is currently home to more than 46,000 farms and a large percentage of those farms house livestock of some form. According to Dr. Dan Kovich, program director for the Office of Animal Care and Health Policy, there is currently no statewide recording mechanism for the number of livestock or poultry killed on these farms by dogs each year … but that does not mean these incidents are not occurring.
Mike and Dianne Taylor own and operate Empress Farm in Hanover, which raises free-range poultry to sell at local markets. Dianne Taylor says she and her husband have had several incidents in which their turkeys and chickens have either disappeared or were found maimed.
The livestock owners eventually caught a neighbor’s dog in the act, but the couple was not pleased with the legal options available to them upon reporting the losses.
“The game lawyers said there wasn’t a whole lot that they could do,” Dianne Taylor said. “We could take them (the neighbors) to court, but you know, there’s a lot of hassle in that.”
If passed, HB54 will ensure the Taylors and other rural Virginians receive the reparation upon any future dog attacks on livestock and poultry; even if the livestock owners do not know who owns the dog.
According to the bill’s chief patron, Delegate Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, the funds for the compensation will come from collections of dog and cat license taxes by the treasurer of each locality. These taxes are put into a separate account made for the precise purpose of damaged livestock.
“Certainly this bill can benefit producers who are suffering losses (of livestock or poultry),” Kovich said. “Especially when the owner of the dog can’t be found. They (owners) are still going to be compensated.”
HB54 passed unanimously in the House earlier this week and is currently awaiting the Senate’s vote.