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Sorry Kristi Noem, Killing Puppies and Goats Isn’t Responsible Stewardship

Just when it seems politics can’t get any stranger, enter South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s bizarre tale of slaughtering her dog and goat. 

>>>READ: Whale Conservation and Lobstering Can Go Hand in Hand

As The Guardian recently reported, in her forthcoming book Noem tells the story of shooting Cricket, a 14 month old wirehair pointer bird hunting dog, arguably a puppy that was short of full maturity. Cricket ruined a pheasant hunt by going “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life.” Cricket’s fatal error, however, was escaping Noem’s truck and attacking and killing a local family’s chickens. So, Noem took Cricket to a gravel pit and shot her in the presence of a surprised construction crew. 

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But Noem wasn’t finished. Next on her hit list was a family goat who was “nasty and mean” because it had not been castrated. Furthermore, the goat smelled “disgusting, musky, rancid” and “loved to chase” Noem’s children, knocking them down and ruining their clothes.

After dragging the goat to the same gravel pit, he jumped as Noem pulled the trigger and survived the shot. An unprepared Noem had to go back to her truck for another shell while the goat suffered but then “hurried back to the gravel pit and put him down.”

“It was not a pleasant job,” she writes, “but it had to be done.”

After facing a not-surprising backlash, Noem shared two posts on X. In the first, she said:

We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm. Sadly, we just had to put down 3 horses a few weeks ago that had been in our family for 25 years.

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When her book plug “apology” didn’t land well, Noem again defended herself on X: 

I can understand why some people are upset about a 20 year old story of Cricket, one of the working dogs at our ranch, in my upcoming book — No Going Back. The book is filled with many honest stories of my life, good and bad days, challenges, painful decisions, and lessons learned … 

Whether running the ranch or in politics, I have never passed on my responsibilities to anyone else to handle. Even if it’s hard and painful. I followed the law and was being a responsible parent, dog owner, and neighbor.

As I explained in the book, it wasn’t easy. But often the easy way isn’t the right way.

Noem’s second clarification didn’t help because “real farmers” and conservatives who take stewardship seriously don’t see tough principled leadership but carelessness, incompetence, and cruelty. 

Consider Cricket’s fate. As the owner of a poorly behaved Carolina Dog (pictured below as a puppy), I’m sympathetic to Jonah Golberg’s take. On X, he writes, “If I had that attitude about my Carolina Dog, I would have shot Zoë a dozen times over when she was young.”

Now, we also own goats and are considering adding sheep. If we added babies to our operation, we’d have to be very cautious about keeping Ellie, a natural predator, contained. But if we failed, we’d do everything in our power to find her another home, not put her down for being a dog. 

Noem insists, “the easy way isn’t the right way.” That’s true. The easy way is blowing your dog away with a shotgun. The hard way is finding a better home for your dog.

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Regarding her goat, Noem seems to lack basic knowledge. We’re the happy and proud owners of two myotonic (fainting) goats named Jeff and Dill. My wife wisely insisted on getting two wethers (castrated males) because goats need a companion, and because males that aren’t castrated can be very difficult to manage. Serious goat shoppers learn two things very quickly: 1) the need for good fencing and 2) the challenges of managing non-castrated male goats who are insanely eager to mate. Anyone who has done even cursory research on goats knows that male goat sexuality makes for revolting and hilarious prose. Any “real farmer” knows all about male goats. 

No one in the “liberal media” is responsible for Noem not understanding her goat. Perhaps her book offers important context and a deeper discussion of her goat’s behavior, but any goat owner would not rush to shoot a goat for being sexually frustrated.

The firearm details of the story are also important and will not win Noem points among firearm-proficient landowners. First, if a farmer has to put down an animal with a gun they look for a soft surface, not a hard surface (i.e. a gravel pit). Bullets (and shotgun pellets) do something called ricochet which creates unnecessary risks for the shooter and anyone in the vicinity (like the construction workers who were watching Noem’s executions unfold). 

Second, serious farmers, ranchers and hunters are familiar with the concept of an “ethical kill.” For instance, this Texas Parks & Wildlife guide encourages hunters to “always learn as much as possible about wildlife” and to “shoot within effective range to insure a swift, clean kill.”

Noem didn’t give her goat this courtesy. Trying to blow away a goat with a shotgun isn’t advised due to their anatomy. Humanely shooting a goat, which has horns and extra bony growth protecting their brains, requires a shot from the back of the head with a high-caliber round from a rifle or handgun. And, again, Noem didn’t even have an extra shell on hand. She had to go back to her truck to get one while the goat suffered in a gravel pit. 

Finally, on the political level, no publisher, politician, or press person puts an anecdote like this in a book by someone on the VP shortlist without knowing full well it will be a brand-defining moment. I’ve written two books with a politician. Noem knows better. Instead of using media bias as a cover for her careless actions, she should apologize to former President Trump, every Republican officeholder, conservative voters, and farmers across America she wrongly suggests are on her side. 

Noem’s literary decision is mystifying because she obscured her actual record as governor and supporter of an “all of the above” energy strategy that is best for the planet and people. Making that the focus of her book would have been the hard choice, but it would have been more rewarding. Instead, Noem chose the easy path. By sharing a titillating tale she hoped would appeal to Trump and rile up the MAGA base she branded herself not as a “real rancher” but as just another “real politician.”

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

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