Stray dog

The type of dog ranges from a Jack Russel to a Boerboel.  It is normally animals who are underfed and undernourished.

Domestic Dog Canis Familiaris)                                                            

Conflict category: High conflict potential

Conservation status: not applicable

Shoulder height: 300 – 750+ mm ; mass: 5 – 40kg

Identification features:

Occur in a variety of breads, shapes and sizes but usually unmistakable.



Dog tracks are often confused with those of cheetah. However, the rear part of the footpad lacks the W – shaped grooves typical of the cat family.

The damage caused by domestic dogs is often blamed on other predators. Many feral and even pet dogs are responsible for stock losses. Livestock killing is not confined to stray dogs; very often the well fed family pet will venture on a killing spree into pastures at night. Dogs often increase their destruction by operating in packs.

Even relatively small dogs will hunt livestock and could badly injure them in some cases, even though they are unable to kill them. Stray dogs kill and feed on sheep and goats; they will also attack and kill poultry. Dogs bite and tear their prey randomly, with no fixed pattern. They cause extensive damage and often injure several animals without killing them.

Killing or catching pattern

  • Lots of spoor as they like to chase and bite their prey while running alongside them.
  • Very small lambs are often bitten on the chest, back or head.
  • Large lambs or sheep are bitten anywhere on the body.
  • Bites may be seen on the hamstrings, head, ears, neck or flanks.
  • The kill is generally untidy. It is seldom a clean, neat kill like that of natural predators.
  • The carcass may be dragged to and fro.
  • Usually more than one sheep is killed or maimed, and occasionally only one.

Feeding pattern

  • The amount of meat eaten varies, from nothing to large amounts, which is usually more than that eaten by jackal or caracal.
  • Feeding is often from the rear end, but large pieces may be ripped from the carcass.
  • Large bones are chewed or eaten.
  • Chunks of wool may be scattered everywhere (not neat plucking like the caracal)
  • Large pieces of skin torn from prey.

They normally hunt the areas surrounding locations and are able to walk 10km further to catch animals and cause destruction.

Typical sign of attack from stray dogs is 5 or 6 animals at a time.  Animals are physically torn apart and are dragged and pulled, and intestines are scattered over a wide area.


Managing methods:


  1. Dogs
  • Generate a general awareness amongst all dog owners in the community about their responsibility in keeping a dog but also their responsibility towards all other humans in the same community.
  • Encourage residents of the community to minimize the amount of dogs to one per household.
  • Encourage residents to castrate and fixed their dogs.
  • A wandering dog is an unhappy dog with both his home and his owner, scavenging for food; this is the perfect recipe for havoc amongst livestock.
  • If you can’t feed them don’t keep them.
  • They should be loved, trained, supervised and correctly fed to prevent them from becoming wanderers and problem animals.
  • Strive to encourage dog owners to collar all dogs with an identification tag (Owners phone number) to return all lost dogs but also to indentified owners whose dogs caused losses amongst livestock.
  • Dogs should be enclosed at night and not allowed to wander.

    Control and management of Stray dogs

  • It is best to involve the SAPS and SPCA to manage any problem with stray dogs.
  • Always try to identify and inform the owners before any lethal or non lethal management strategies are applied. It is seldom one dog responsible for killing livestock, normally it would be a large specie (Ridgeback) accompanied by a smaller specie like a terrier type of dog.(Jack Russell) Stray dogs normally hunt in packs of two and larger, therefore multiple owners also involved.
  • The use of a professional hunter that is making use of the call and shoot method to eliminate the problematic stray dogs could be used.
  • Stray dogs that persistently caused damage can be caught in cage traps.
  1. Livestock
  • Keeping livestock in an enclosure (Kraaling) at night close to human presence.
  • The size of the enclosure must fit the amount of animals it is keeping. (Too big enclosure, animals will run and injure them against the enclosure when frightened, to small may result in animals trembling each other to death when frightened.)
  • Important that the main objective of kraaling is not solely to prevent livestock from escaping but the main idea is to keep livestock save from any form of predation, therefore the original plan and material used to build the kraal must be done in such a way that it rather keep unwanted animals (Dogs) out of the kraal and away from the livestock.
  • Entrances in and out of the kraal must be fitted with gates with a 100% fitment, not allowing any animals like small dogs entering the enclosure.
  • Solid structure underneath the gate, (stones, cement slab) preventing animals from digging.
  • Predators especially dog like families like to dig through underneath the enclosure, therefore the fitment of an anti crawler like a piece of netting laying flat on the ground on the outside and alongside the sides of the enclosure packed with stones is indispensable.
  • The height of the enclosure must also be high enough to prevent bigger animals from jumping in. If it is found that animals are jumping over the sides of the enclosure a piece of netting (500 mm fitted at 45 degree angle to the outside) could be additionally fitted as an anti climber.
  • Fitment of deterring equipment like bells on animals in enclosure so scare away unwanted predators and also wakening owners.
  • Fitment of Farm Ranger collars to call owners on cell phone when sudden unnatural movement of livestock is noticed.
  • Human herding during day time.
  • Electric fencing
  • Jackal proof fencing

The nationwide problem of stray dogs is shared by David Wardle, small stock farmer in the Cathcart district of the Eastern Cape.

In his capacity as small stock farmer and previous chairperson of the Thomas River Conservancy, Wardle has been dealing with the problem of stray dogs and illegal dog hunting for several years. He is confident that he represents the views and knowledge of most game and small stock farmers throughout the country.

Most people involved in greyhound breeding as well as law enforcement officers are aware of the problem of stray dogs and the sport of dog hunting. In many cases, they are involved and endorse the actions of the communities and the clients of greyhound breeders (dog buyers).

The following categories are deemed problematic and cause devastation to small stock and game farmers across the country:

  1. Stock theft, coupled with the use of damage-causing dogs
  2. Unattended stray dogs
  3. Small-scale hunting for the pot
  4. Illegal large-scale dog hunting and betting (“taxi hunting”)


Stock theft, a common practice, is associated with stealing sheep, goats, or other small stock, with dogs assisting in the process. Often these dogs are used to scare the sheep to the edges of the camps where they can be caught and tied. Sometimes the dogs are used to catch and drag down the sheep to capture and tie them up for transport. Usually, large syndicates or gangs are involved in the theft and business is done with the spoils. In the Cathcart region especially, theft is executed on a grand scale and up to 50 small stock are stolen at a time and then loaded and sold elsewhere or slaughtered locally.


In towns and townships across the country there are many dogs that are homeless and totally neglected by their owners. These dogs roam the streets and suburbs trying to survive on whatever they can scrounge from bins, gutters, and dumps. Then they begin to form relationships and a pecking order and eventually hunting packs develop, and they learn to survive like wild dogs.

This is when they are most destructive. These dogs wander out into the farmlands and wreak havoc on game and small-stock farms. Scores of sheep, goats, and wildlife are often mauled, mangled, or killed during these raids by wild domestic dogs.

Often the dogs that were previously used in stock theft become part of these packs. They sometimes remember where they were used for stock theft, and head out to the same regions and begin to tackle and maul small stock. These raids into the farms often result in scores or even hundreds of sheep being killed or mauled.


Agri SA’s Rural Safety Committee recently spent considerable time discussing the problem of illegal hunting with dogs.  Although this is a growing problem, land owners should take extreme care in their actions that could make them liable for prosecution:

The following practical guidelines were compiled:

  • Gathering of evidence and protecting the crime scene by:
  • Keeping evidence of the crime scene uncontaminated until recorded and collected by police, e.g. vehicle tracks, suspect and animal spoor.
  • Ensuring that there are no further suspects in the area.
  • Protecting evidence that may be destroyed.
  • Entry point, open gate, damage fence.
  • No eating, drinking or smoking at the crime scene.
  • Gathering names and addresses of possible witnesses.
  • Not discussing facts with witnesses.
  • Making notes on position of vehicles, suspects, dogs, gates, fences etc.
  • Where possible, take photographs of vehicles, dogs and suspects.
  • Nature Conservation Organisations should immediately be involved and to assist with complaints with illegal hunting.
  • Get the nearest SPCA involved who can also deal with the confiscation of dogs.
  • Farmer Associations should involve the local National Prosecuting Authority at their meetings, where assistance on how to deal with issues of illegal hunting should be discussed.
  • Get involved with the local police and Sector Community Policing Forum.
  • Utilise the Local Priority Committee to develop action plans to deal with the problem, such as patrols and increase awareness programmes.
  • In the event of damages caused by dogs, land owners must also open a case of malicious damage to property and insists on a compensatory fine declaring the value of the property.
  • If hunting was previously permitted and the land owner now wishes to cease hunting, a legal procedure should be followed to inform neighbours, tenants, community members etc that it will no longer be permitted.

Click here for the full English report.

Click here for the full Afrikaans report.

Article appeared in Farmers Weekly

Article appeared in Landbouweekblad

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By-law relating to the keeping of dogs – QUEENSTOWN MUNICIPALITY

The Administrator has approved the subjoined BY-LAW relating to the keeping of dogs.  Read here for all the requirements relating to the ownership of dogs.

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