A recent dog attack that maimed a baby mule has its owners, Phil and Bonnie Easley, fuming.
“I am so sick of people letting their dogs run loose at night,” Bonnie Easley said. “Keep your dogs home.”
According to county animal officials, these types of dog attacks on livestock are a growing problem.
Easley discovered Breezy, a 7-month-old mule, with his leg all torn up the morning of Jan. 21, and the vet confirmed it was due to a dog attack.
This summer, Phil shot and killed two pit bulls that were attacking their mules, Easley said. A third dog got away, she added.
“I’m not a dog shooter,” she said. “But I do have a problem with them hanging off my animals.”
During that early-morning incident, the family was awakened by their dogs, Easley said.
“My stepson saw the pit bulls attacking the mules, jumping at them,” she said. “They then tore the foot half-off my gelding horse.”
Other neighbors have complained of dogs killing their chickens and injuring horses, Easley said. And one neighbor saw two pit bulls in the road at about 3 a.m. the night of the most recent attack.
“I can’t prove” those dogs were the ones that attacked her mule, she said, adding that she just wants people to be responsible pet owners.
Reports of dogs attacking livestock have become a more common occurrence in the county; a check of The Union archives revealed eight complaints in a little more than three months. Most of those incidents involved chickens, but reports also came in of dogs attacking horses and sheep, in one case injuring a sheep so severely that it had to be euthanized.
“It’s been a real problem,” said Nevada County Animal Control Officer Bruce Baggett. “We’ve been dealing with livestock attacks pretty much weekly.”
Baggett attributed the “massive” increase in such attacks to an increase in pit bull ownership in the county.
“I’m not trying to pick on pits, but they’re always the worst attacks, by far,” he said, adding that they are one of the few dogs out there strong enough to kill larger animals.
Pit bulls killed a 1,500-pound cow in the county just a few weeks ago, Baggett said.
“They tend to tag-team, too, and they will also kill wild animals,” he said. “They have focus like no other dog I’ve ever seen.”
Cheryl Wicks, who runs the Sammie’s Friends animal shelter, said that if pit bulls are attacking other animals, it’s due to human error.
“They should not be out running around,” Wicks said. “They have a high prey drive.”
Baggett, like Easley, said the bottom line is that pet owners need to be more responsible.
The problem is that often, the owners of problematic dogs refuse to admit their animal is a problem, Baggett said.
An owner of a dog that pursues livestock can be cited, he said, adding that it’s a misdemeanor offense.
And, of course, the owner of the livestock has the right to shoot a dog that attacks — or even “worries” — livestock, Baggett said.
“People just need to keep their animals at home, it’s safer for them,” he said. “They’re like kids — they do better with boundaries.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.