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From the Mailbag – Nuisance Animal Control

Which airgun works for non-lethal and/or lethal animal control?

Here’s a new article series that I hope will be helpful. I get a lot of emails with good questions; and here’s a pretty common one. I received an email from a fellow airgunner that is dealing with an aggressive stray domestic cat. They asked what would be a non-lethal means of dealing with its presence on their properly, especially after it tangled with their dog and the dog lost.

The short answer is really NOT all that short. The first issue that comes up, well before hardware choices, is local laws and ordinances. It will be against the law in most places to kill a domesticated stray animal, even if it comes after your own pet. Moreover, It is probably against the law to discharge a weapon (airgun or otherwise) around your house if you are in city or town limits. Some counties may also have distance requirements that must be met, i.e. 500 feet from any structure, etc.   It is critical that you know what is legal and not legal BEFORE you pull the trigger. If you don’t, you could be facing heavy penalties and even jail time.

Here’s what happened to me…

I used to walk regularly around my neighborhood. As is our right in Arizona, I always carry; and I open carry not concealed. On occasion I’ve had dogs, sometimes as many as three at a time, come flying out from behind a house and out into the street. One time in particular there were 2 Pit Bull mixes and 1 German Shepard. I don’t have a fear of dogs, but I do have a healthy respect. In this encounter I was able to impart unto them that they were better off back in their yard. On another walk, there was a young boy playing in his driveway with their family dog, a large Pit Bull mix again, that flew down the driveway and into the road. This dog would not let me pass. When I tried to retreat, it would lunge as if it was planning to attack. I called to the boy and told him that I had a firearm; and that I was going to shoot his dog if he did not get his parents and get the dog under control. I had my hand on my weapon and was ready to do what I had to do to defend myself against the threat. Fortunately, the parents came down retrieved the dog and the problem was resolved.

Here’s what I found out…

When I got home, I called the police department about the incident. I wanted to know what my legal options were in that circumstance. What I found out really shocked me. Essentially, I would have been arrested and taken to jail had I shot the dog; as it is against the law to discharge any weapon in city limits. (The exception is target practice with airguns; which has to be on your property and your projectiles have to all be trapped and can’t leave your property) I would have also been open to all manner of civil litigation from the family, even though it was their dog that was threatening me.

So I asked “what has to happen for me to be justified in using my weapon?” Their answer was that my life or the life of another had to be in imminent danger. In my case I had to have been bitten first, then I would have had the justification to draw my weapon and shoot. But, I would have still be charged with discharging my weapon in city limits and may have to defend myself in court for my actions.

So what can you do?

Now back to the original question. How do you handle this situation? While it would be simpler and easier to take matters into our own hands, the fact is that it may not be an option that you want to exercise, given the legal ramifications. Here’s how I handled a similar situation posed by our reader.

Living in South Carolina we had some neighbors that did not control their animals, despite many attempts to work things out with them. They would be gone weeks at a time; and just leave the dogs on the properly to fend for themselves. We spent thousands of dollars fencing in our 2 acre property; only to have their Rottweiler tear through the fence and come after our dogs, and on one occasion, me personally. This was after many calls to the local PD and Animal Control on the subject. When they would eventually come by, the dog was happily back on his own property. I talked to the officers about my options when the dog would cross over. It was much the same as here in Havasu. It is against the law to discharge a weapon in town limits; and I would have to be in immanent, life threatening danger to be justified in doing so. One day when the dog had, once again, busted through my fence, I was able to rope him and detain him. I called the police and animal control. When they got there to take the dog away, he became very aggressive and violent. One of the officers drew his weapon and almost shot the dog right there. But, animal control was able to deal with the animal and take him to the pound to be evaluated.  The neighbors were fined for several various counts and eventually learned to keep their animals contained.

Back to airguns and similar situations.

The short answer to the original question, is that no airgun is going to be suitable for non-lethal use against a domesticated animal or stray. If you are out in the sticks where there are no laws or regulations against it, lethal force may be your only option. Given the size of most animals in this category, I would not use an airgun, unless it was a big bore PCP. That would only be my last resort. There are times when these animals are causing harm to your property and/or livestock. In these cases, get good legal advice before you take matters into your own hand. It may be, given the circumstances, you would be perfectly justified in handling things on your own. Or, you may be shocked to find out, as I did, that doing so, regardless of the circumstances, will put you in serious legal jeopardy.

Comments / Questions?

I hope you all have enjoyed this article. I plan on doing more of these as good questions and topics come my way. Let us know what you think in the comments and questions section. We love hearing from our readers!

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Here’s a new article series that I hope will be helpful. I get a lot of emails with good questions; and here’s a pretty common one. I received an email from a fellow airgunner that is dealing with an aggressive stray domestic cat. They asked what would be a non-lethal means of dealing with its […]