wants dogs killed

The Big Islander says he's losing thousands
of dollars because of attacks on his sheep

WAIMEA, Hawaii >> A Big Islander with a small sheep-raising operation awoke one morning recently to find dead and dying sheep in the paddock next to his house, says Rick Habein, president of the Sheep Producers Association of Hawaii.

Dogs had gotten under or over fences and attacked the sheep for sport during the night, Habein said. The owner hadn't heard a thing.

"Nine times out of 10, it's not for food. Very little of the animal is eaten," he said.

With losses continuing for years, the sheep ranchers are asking the Hawaii County Police Commission to "deputize" agents of the USDA's Wildlife Services to hunt the killer dogs.

The commission will hear the request Friday.

Habein said Wildlife Services agents perform such functions in the western United States, shooting coyotes, for example.

Wildlife Services said its agents would need local authorization before they could serve that function here.

The huge Parker Ranch based in Waimea normally leads people to think of area as cattle country. But a few people -- Habein's association has 12 members -- raise sheep for wool and lamb's meat, many on small ranches of five to 10 acres, Habein said.

The dogs causing the problem range from some born wild, to abandoned ones, to "sweet" pets that spend the day sleeping on the porch and then attack sheep with other dogs during the night, Habein said.

About 100 sheep were lost to dogs islandwide last year, he said. An average sheep is worth about $100, but some specialty breeds can be worth $1,000 each, he said.

Habein has 120 ewes at his Habein Livestock Co., which also raises 300 cattle on its 900 acres.

He was up to 160 sheep at one point, but during just two bad nights, he lost 80 to dogs. In five years, his losses totaled about 100, he said.

Most dogs are too smart for traps, Habein said.

Sheep raisers sometimes shoot at dogs, but no one likes the idea because houses on small ranches are fairly close together.

"If you're not careful, you could put a bullet through someone's window," he said.

The sheep raisers want a federal officer to do the job since they usually have military or police training as well as knowledge of tracking animals, he said.



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