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May 24, 2022

Farm dogs being taken from Utah ranches, grazing land by misguided dog-nappers

Lane Jensen’s dog watches the sheep. (John Wilson, KSL-TV)

ELWOOD, Box Elder County — Officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture of Food said they want to spread the word to people — stop taking farm dogs off of ranches and grazing areas.

So far, in 2021, there have been 11 incidents of dogs being taken.

KSL-TV spoke to one rancher who understands it’s probably people wanting to help, but at the same time, feels enough is enough.

It’s still pretty quiet in Box Elder County, just outside of Elwood, but it’s not as quiet as Lane Jensen remembers growing up there.

“It is changing,” he said. “This year especially, there has been some big impacts.”

It’s not so much the new housing developments in the area that bother ranchers like him, even though there are plenty of new homes in this part of the county.

Jensen is more concerned about people taking his dogs.

Since he’s a sheep rancher, Jensen relies on dogs to help keep the flocks safe.

“We’ve had three incidents where we’ve had dogs taken from us,” he said while on his ranch. “We’ve gotten two of them back and that was after we started micro-chipping them.”

In most cases, the dog-nappers are probably people who don’t understand the dogs aren’t lost or abandoned.

They’re actually working dogs who stay with the flocks of sheep to guard them in remote areas from predators, such as mountain lions or coyotes.

“I started using dogs back in 2000 and it’s made a big difference. Our losses went down drastically to predators,” said Jensen.

Princess is one of Jensen’s work dogs. Looking at her big white and fluffy body, you can understand why someone who sees her in the mountains might think she’s lost, even with sheep nearby she and other dogs are protecting.

“They like the sheep and they want to stay with the sheep,” said Jensen. “But, if someone is going to offer them a sandwich, they’re not going to turn it down, either.”

Two of Jensen’s dogs ended up at shelters. One of them was all the way in Montana.

“They had scanned the microchip and that’s where our dog was,” said Jensen.

Lane Jensen uses this dog tag to tell passerby's that his dogs are protecting his sheep.
Lane Jensen uses this dog tag to tell passerby’s that his dogs are protecting his sheep. (Photo: John Wilson, KSL-TV)

That’s why Jensen now puts a tag on all his dogs, which reads, “I belong with sheep.”

So far this year, officials with the Utah Department of Agriculture said 11 of these types of working dogs have been taken from ranchers.

“I think in general, people want to think they’re doing help,” said Jensen. “However, I would suggest, if they see a dog they think is lost or abandoned, they get the information on where they are and what the dog looks like and call law enforcement.”

As more people move to the area who maybe don’t understand what working dogs do or look like, Jensen understands they may just be trying to help.

However, he also hopes they take the time to learn.

“It’s our livelihood. It’s our family’s livelihood. It’s our children’s future,” he said. “It’s not just something we abuse and we’re trying to take advantage of.”


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