Dogs' owner faces charges in horse mauling
ARS 3-1311: Dogs killing or chasing livestock
• If any person discovers a dog killing, wounding or chasing livestock — or discovers a dog under circumstances which show conclusively that it has recently done so — may pursue and kill the dog.
• The dog owner is liable for damages caused by the dog chasing livestock. In the case of a dog killing or wounding livestock, the owner of the dog is liable for damages to the owner of the livestock equal to three times the value of the livestock killed or wounded.
• An owner of a dog who intentionally or recklessly allows or causes the dog to: wound or kill livestock owned by another person is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor; chase livestock owned by another person, causing injury to the livestock, is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.
ARS 11-1001: ‘Vicious animal’
• A “vicious animal” has a propensity to attack, injure or otherwise endanger the safety of human beings without provocation, or has been so declared after a hearing before a judge.
Note: This is not limited to dogs.
ARS 11-1014.01: ‘Aggressive dog’
• “Aggressive dog” means any dog that has bitten a person or domestic animal without provocation, or that has a known history of unprovoked attacks on people or domestic animals.
• A person who owns or who is responsible for an aggressive dog shall take reasonable care to: prohibit the dog from escaping to the outside of a residence or an enclosed area (a violation is a class 3 misdemeanor); control the dog in a manner that prevents the dog from biting or attacking a person or domestic animal at all times while the dog is off the owner’s or responsible person’s property (a violation is a class 1 misdemeanor).
ARS 11-1029: Hearing on disposition of vicious animals and forfeiture
• A peace officer, county enforcement agent or animal control officer who has impounded an animal on a showing of probable cause that the animal is vicious or may be a danger to any person or other animal, may request a disposition hearing before a judge to determine whether the animal is vicious.
• The officer or agent who has requested a hearing shall serve the order on the owner of the animal.
• If the judge determines that the animal is vicious, the judge may order that the animal be forfeited to the officer or agent for transfer to a humane society, county animal shelter or approved rescue agency, or be humanely destroyed. The owner shall pay impound fees and any other costs for boarding or necessary veterinary care.
• If the judge determines that the animal is not vicious, the judge may order the animal returned to the owner. If the owner fails to appear at the hearing, the judge may order that the animal be sent to a shelter and be made available for adoption, or humanely destroyed.
**Statutes abridged. Visit www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp to see full statutes and other related laws
The recent demise of a horse to a dog mauling galvanized local animal allies and revealed what for some was a frustrating reality: If a dog maims or kills another animal, it won't necessarily be hauled away right then and there.
Spud the quarter horse died Monday evening, a few hours after a neighbor's two dogs escaped from their home, squeezed into the horse's pen and attacked. Although the dogs' owner was initially only ticketed and allowed to keep the dogs, one of the dogs' owners is now facing criminal charges and the dogs have been impounded.
Carolyn Knowlton, Spud's caretaker, said she speaks for the whole neighborhood — the residents of a horse property subdivision near Shadow Avenue and Spur Drive in the Foothills — when she said how pleased she was when the dogs were taken away Thursday evening. Knowlton said she isn't given to hand-wringing, but knowing the dogs were still up the street after they had killed a horse made her genuinely concerned about safety.
“We are elated and relieved,” she said.
Spud belonged to a friend of the Knowltons, who had shared him for the last several years. The owner contacted the Arizona Department of Agriculture, where livestock officer Sgt. Don Drake suggested a law that makes a dog owner liable for chasing, hurting or killing livestock. This is a section of Arizona's agricultural code, but a violation is still a crime.
Drake is a certified police officer whose territory covers Yuma, so it was a charge he could have filed himself. The Yuma County Sheriff's Office made it instead.
This law not only makes the owner liable for damages of up to three times the dead animal's value, but it allows anybody who finds the dog attacking the livestock to pursue it and kill it. The owner of a dog in such a situation could be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
Sheriff's deputies usually work with the criminal and traffic codes, not the agriculture code. It was new territory for the local police officers, and the recently established Yuma County Animal Control division.
AUTHORITIES HEAR THE COMMUNITY
After Spud died, and the dogs were left at home with a ticket for the owner for having dogs at large, community outcry was loud and swift. Lt. Darren Simmons from the Yuma County Sheriff's Office said he fielded calls “left and right.”
“We empathize with them,” he said. “We understand where everyone's coming from.”
But there's due process, even for dogs. Even after the misdemeanor charge was filed, investigators needed time to line up the official orders with the county attorney to take the dogs legally.
The dogs are now at the Humane Society, being cared for until a hearing Nov. 27 to legally determine whether or not they're “vicious.”
“The dogs are off the street. They're not a danger to anybody now,” Simmons said. “Even if they would have been taken at the time, you just can't put the animals down. You have to go through the hearing process.”
Knowlton's husband Charles went out to the horse enclosures outside the couple's Foothills home Monday afternoon when he heard an unusual, frantic whinnying. It wasn't Spud he heard crying, but the other horses the Knowltons keep who knew something was wrong.
He found Spud squirming on the ground, a pit bull on top of him. Another dog, also a pit bull, stood nearby. They had apparently squeezed through the bars of the pen.
The dogs left after Charles shouted at them, although the same one he saw on the horse grabbed his small dog on his way out, tossing it aside and injuring its back.
Spud was in a relatively small pen with nowhere to run. He was also elderly, about 29 years old. His wounds were extensive: ugly rips, tears and punctures leaving dangling and exposed flesh on his belly, neck, shoulder, hip and face. Two veterinarians examined him and decided that he would have needed expensive treatment for months to possibly heal. He was euthanized about three hours after the attack.
Carolyn Knowlton said that because the dogs had not been intentionally set upon the horse, and by the time authorities arrived, they were both back home, they could not be impounded. (Charles Knowlton followed the dogs to the street and saw the owner put them in his truck.)
Knowlton feared for return attacks on the many horses remaining on her property, all kept in what she thought were safe pens. She also worried that a child could be next.
She wasn't the only one pre-occupied. People “inundated” the offices of the sheriff, animal control and other county offices with their thoughts on the situation, said Yuma County Animal Control director Phil Beatty.
Beatty impounded the dogs primarily as a public safety concern, but also for the dogs' own protection, as rumors had swirled that somebody might take it upon themselves to kill the dogs.
Also, the mauling happened after normal business hours, and investigators learned more the next day, Beatty said. They proceeded, as they learned more, with prudence.
“Sitting down and looking at the totality of things and where we were at, we didn't really want to take a chance of these guys possibly getting out again and something else occurring, and we certainly didn't want people taking vigilante justice in their hands and making a bad situation even worse,” he said.
Beatty collected the dogs himself, and said they were cooperative.
The dogs' owners could not be reached for comment about the attack on Spud, or a reported nonfatal attack on another neighbor's horse in March.
When Donna George heard that a pair of pit bulls had mauled a horse, her heart dropped. It was too familiar of a scenario.
On Oct. 22, George received a call from a neighbor saying that she needed to come home because another neighbor's dogs had attacked her dog, an aging dalmatian mix named Zoe. She confirmed that they were not the same dogs, but George lives only a few blocks from where Spud was killed in his stall, and it gave her a jolt. Zoe, like Spud, was in her own yard when the offending dogs, also a male and a female pit bull, let themselves in and lunged without provocation.
A Yuma County sheriff's deputy and animal control officer came out, but did not impound the dogs, even though Zoe died. They went back home, next door.
“Something needs to be done in the county when a dog does something like this,” George said.
Beatty was the one who explained this to George, who was unaware that dogs aren't taken right away when they attack other animals — only when they bite humans.
Beatty is empathetic, but a straight-shooter — he was with George about the dogs that killed Zoe, and he was about the dogs that killed Spud.
“If it was a person that was bitten, then we could have removed the animals right then and there,” Beatty said. “But because it was not a person and an animal we could not, and that's just the way the law is written right now.”
Carolyn Knowlton is motivated, though, to see how she can help change the law.
Knowlton is pleased that authorities filed charges and seized the dogs. But she'd like to see the law changed to give authorities more latitude when a dog violently attacks another animal. If animal control could have impounded the dogs the night they attacked Spud, it would have made things a lot easier on them, she said.
Spud was a former cutting horse, who more recently had been one of the horses the Knowltons kept for area children to use in 4-H. He taught kids to ride and helped them win ribbons at shows. The mellow, sorrel horse was well-known among local enthusiasts and Knowlton said she expects standing-room-only at the vicious dog hearing.
“I have no question,” she said. “No question.”
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.