Sheriff: Keep animals penned

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Judi Hunt didn't think it was fair that a Moffat County sheriff's deputy shot and killed her dog "Brody" after it had allegedly chased a sick deer.

Hunt penned her thoughts about her outrage of the incident recently in a letter to the editor in the Craig Daily Press, but she was out of town and unavailable for comment Thursday.

According to court documents, Hunt has been charged with a petty offense for having a dog at large. Deputy Michael Anthony handled the incident, but he declined to comment about the case because it's headed to court.

Animal owners can be fined, charged or have their animals shot if owners "knowingly or negligently" allow their pets to harass, harm or kill livestock and wildlife, according to state statute.

Because the Sheriff's Office recently has handled "an inordinate number" of complaints about dogs running loose, the department issued a press release Thursday reminding dog owners that they face penalties if they don't keep their dogs under control.

"As is often the case, residents living outside the city limits will tell deputies that they moved to the country so that their dogs could run loose. This is a violation of Moffat County ordinances, and owners will be charged accordingly," the press release states. "The fines for owners who continue to allow their dogs to run at large increase for each violation."

The Sheriff's Office handled a case Thursday of a livestock owner shooting two dogs that had allegedly bitten sheep, Moffat County Sheriff's Sgt. Rick Holford said.

Cases between dogs and livestock are more prevalent than incidents involving dogs and wildlife, he said. Although the cases aren't a common occurrence, the department has logged four dog versus livestock or wildlife cases in about a week.

Holford said deputies first try to talk to animal owners about keeping pets in control, but "once a dog draws blood, it's ruined forever," he said. "They'll keep doing it. That's why a lot of people who have their dogs do that, put them to sleep."

Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Division of Wildlife, said colder weather brings deer down into the lower elevations -- which usually means more populated areas.

"When the wildlife comes closer to town, you're going to find conflict occurring with people and animals," he said.

Hampton relayed a recent event in Montrose in which a woman's two dogs drew blood on a buck deer that wandered into town. The deer gored the woman after she tried to break up the incident, Hampton said. She was not charged in that incident, he added.

Hampton said the DOW doesn't keep tabs on the number of times officers have shot animals for harassing wildlife, though he estimated those numbers wouldn't be significant.

Hampton said the agency tends to have more problems with people new to rural areas who think "they can let their dogs run at will," he said.

"First and foremost we try to offer education," he said. "People need to keep their dogs leashed, fenced, kenneled or otherwise," Hampton said.

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