(CN) - A Missouri appeals court ruled that the animals on a deer-breeding ranch were domesticated, and the ranch can sue after 21 of its "breeder deer" were killed by dogs.
Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch sued the owners of three dogs that broke through Oak Creek's pen and killed 21 bucks, does and fawns that the ranch used for breeding. The hand-fed deer lacked the defensive instincts of wild deer.
Bred for their extraordinarily large antler racks, these deer sometimes sold for more than $100,000.
The trial court dismissed the suit in summary judgment, agreeing with the dogs' owners, who argued that they were not liable under Missouri law because the deer were not domestic animals.
Chief Judge Roy Richter reversed the decision, however, faulting the trial court's interpretation of "domestic animals" to include "cattle, swine, chickens and horses."
Deer should be included in that category, the ruling states.
"The deer killed have never been in the wild," Richter wrote. "They were all penned and hand-fed, raised in an environment that did not allow them to move freely beyond their confined area."
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