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2015-02-26

Vicious dog attacks savage alpacas

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photo by Dennis Allyn
Comal County officials make no bones about they feel about dogs running at large. Perhaps similar signs could be placed in areas of Bandera County that are plagued by irresponsible dog owners.



For the second time this month, livestock has been attacked in the Polly Peak area and residents feel that their pleas for help against packs of marauding dogs are being ignored. However, that appears about to change.
On Feb. 9, a herd of alpacas in a pen on Broad Oak Drive was attacked by four dogs, resulting in the death of a breeding male and injuries to several others. According to Bandera County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Matt King, alpacas used in breeding operations can cost $5,000 and more.
Gruesome scene
According to King, after arriving at the scene of the gruesome attack, BCSO Deputy DJ Nowlin observed several alpacas lying on the ground in their pen.
The alpacas' owner said that the gravely injured breeding male, a large rare red alpaca, was transported to a veterinary clinic at Texas A&M University for surgery. However, the next day, after the alpaca was unable to stand, a CAT scan revealed damage to the animal's spine and he was humanely euthanized.
According to reports, no one witnessed the dogs attacking the alpacas. However, while patrolling the area, Nowlin identified two dogs as having possibly been involved in the fatal attack because, as reported, one was reportedly had blood on its face, snout and chest. After containing the canines - a black and white pit-boxer mix and a white female lab mix missing its left front leg - Nowlin transported the animals to the Bandera County Animal Shelter. Neither dog had collars, identification tags or microchips.
According to King, law enforcement authorities later identified the owner as also living on Broad Oak Drive.
Dogs in custody
Immediately after the dogs were taken to the animal shelter, community liaison Sandra Schott posted their pictures on the Bandera County Animal Control Facebook page. There is no evidence of blood on either dog.
The owner identified her errant dogs from the Facebook posting. King noted that although the owner picked up the black and white dog from the animal shelter, she indicated that she "didn't want" the three-legged dog. At that time, the remaining dog was released to Pat Godkin, who runs the "A Doggie 4 You" animal rescue group.
In an interview with the Courier on Tuesday, Feb. 24, Godkin explained that animals involved in livestock attacks are "always adopted out of Bandera County in areas that are not rural. We've always been very careful about how we handle these kinds of (incidents). I grew up on a ranch and understand what goes on."
Moreover, Godkin believes the white dog was not actively involved in the attack, but rather was just on the property. "The dog did not have blood on it when it was picked up," she said. Additionally, since the dog's leg had been amputated only recently, "it was still moving very carefully," Godkin said.
Policy information
Questions remain about why the animals allegedly involved in the attack on the alpacas were released at all. Policy information county website states: "Any person in possession or control of an animal that is known to have attacked livestock, domestic animals or fowl shall turn the animal over to the Bandera County Sheriff's Department.
"The County Attorney will file with the County Judge a Petition for the immediate destruction of any animal believed to be a danger to livestock, domestic animal or fowl. The Bandera County Attorney aggressively prosecutes cases involving unrestrained dogs. It is the responsibility of the animal's owner to make sure that the dog is properly restrained at all times."
King said that on Feb. 18, Senior Animal Control Officer Rick Neely had filed an affidavit with County Attorney Janna Lindig, charging Conklin with "public nuisance, animals running at large."
Neely filed this under Section 5 of the Bandera County Animal Control Order dealing simply with the prohibition against off-leash animals.
Additional
charges pending
More importantly, however, King said Nowlin would file additional charges against the dogs' owner, adding "dogs attacking livestock" to the original public nuisance complaint. This new charge is covered under Article 7 of the Bandera County Animal Control Order. Specifically, Article 7 covers Animal Attacking Livestock, Domestic Animals or Fowl, stating:
1) An animal that is attacking, is about to attack, or has recently attacked livestock, domestic animals, or fowl may be killed by any person witnessing the attack.
2) A person who kills an animal that is attacking, is about to attack or has recently attacked livestock, domestic animals, or fowl is not liable for damages to the owner of the animal.
3) Any person in possession or control of an animal that is known to have attacked livestock, domestic animals, or fowl shall turn the animal over to the Animal Control Officer.
If an owner fails to turn an animal over to law enforcement authorities as directed, Article 7 allows seizure of animal with a properly executed warrant. A hearing must be held no later than 10 days after the date on which the animal's owner receives notice the complaint has been filed.
When Nowlin files the second complaint, both dogs - the one previously returned to its owner and the one released to a rescue organization - will be impounded at the county facility until a hearing determines their fate.
Second attack
Fast forward to the morning of Monday, Feb. 23, when a second attack occurred on the penned alpacas. That incident resulted in another two rare red males having to be euthanized with more possibly looming. "The dogs tore the face off one of the alpacas, but he was still alive until he was put down," the owner said. "It was more horrible than anyone can imagine."
The face of a pregnant female alpaca was also destroyed, but medical personnel at the Bandera Veterinary Clinic are attempting to save the mother and the baby.
Official photographs taken after both attacks depicted injuries to the alpacas that were so horrific, BCSO was reluctant to release photos to illustrate this article.
"This was supposed to be our retirement income," the alpaca owner said of the breeding and wool enterprise. "Now I have $60,000 worth of dead and dying alpacas and astronomical vet bills." She indicated that she would pursue a civil suit against the owner of the dogs identified in the first attack. King said the Feb. 23 attack remains under investigation.
At the time of the second attack, one participating dog was shot and killed and another possibly injured. The dead dog is a Rottweiler-shepherd mix, weighing 55 to 60 pounds with a black, white and tan long-haired coat. His body is being retained by the BCSO until the second investigation is completed. Additionally, the second dog, a 25-pound dog that might have been hit, has been described as a retriever mix with a light beige or blond colored coat. Anyone in the Polly Peak area with information about these dogs is asked to call the sheriff's office at 830-796-3771.
Other concerns
The attacks on the alpacas are not the only incidents involving roaming dogs that have residents concerned. Some feel that an active poaching operation is ongoing in the Polly Peak area. "Poachers use their dogs to run Axis and white-tail deer at night," said one resident who asked to remain anonymous. "Then the dogs attack livestock during the day because their owners let them run wild. This has been going on for 10 years. It's downright sickening and irresponsible and no one is doing anything about it."
The county has been plagued with dog troubles for years. In Polly Peak in 2008, an attack left an elderly woman seriously injured after she was mauled by three at-large Rottweilers. Three years later, the dogs' owner, Rosalia Clarice Sclafani, was acquitted on charges of felony assault with serious bodily injury and felony criminal negligence. Jurors felt the state had failed to prove that Sclafani had been negligent when securing her dogs earlier.
Additionally, as also reported by the Courier in 2008, three dogs that had allegedly attacked goats were destroyed under the authority of Section 7 of the Bandera County Animal Control ordinance. The hearing that determined the dogs' fate was adjourned at 11:20 and by 12:10 all had been delivered to a vet clinic where they were euthanized.
Referring to the twin attacks in February, a resident said, "Bandera's a rural county with a lot of livestock like sheep, goats and alpacas. We want to know that when dogs attack, there will be prosecutions and our rights protected."