Woman’s dog shot near Trailside Park
State law authorizes citizens to kill dogs that threaten wildlife or livestock. Following the shooting by a Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputy of a husky near Trailside Park last week, officers are warning residents not to let their pets roam free.
The Highland Estates woman’s dog was killed Friday afternoon for allegedly chasing a deer. Bloodstains and the dog’s fur could still be seen this week near a Snyderville trail, said the dog’s owner, Snyderville Basin resident Jenny Schapper. "They didn’t even bother to clean up," she said. "This is an area where people are walking past all the time."
The deputy shot Schapper’s pet after six-year-old Rowdy and another dog cornered a deer near Trailside Drive, Sheriff’s Office Capt. Joe Offret said.
"This doesn’t happen very often," Offret said Monday. "People cannot allow their animals to run at large that’s just against the law."
State law charges peace officers with protecting wildlife when dogs attack, he added.
Schapper concedes her dog shouldn’t have been allowed to run loose. Summit County Animal Control officers came to her door Friday at 3:45 p.m. They claimed they had followed her sister’s dog to the house. "They told [my mother] that Rowdy was shot and they had him in a black plastic bag in one of the compartments of the Animal Control truck," Schapper said during a telephone interview. "He was dead when I got there and I was just screaming, ‘Why would you shoot my dog? Why? Why? Why?’" "We went to go find what happened," Schapper continued, adding that tire trucks on a trail led her Saturday to the place her dog died. "They were down in the Trailside area, right behind the elementary school. I don’t think people would be very happy that sheriffs are shooting animals behind an elementary, behind homes and by a park. This stuff is all very close to where people are living."
But according to Offret, location doesn’t always determine whether an officer fires his weapon.
"You’re allowed to kill them," he said, explaining that dogs that threaten livestock or wildlife are fair game. "The deputy shot one dog and the other dog ran away." Rowdy sometimes escaped with her sister’s dog to roam the hills near Silver Summit, said Schapper, who did not witness the shooting. A veterinarian reportedly performed an autopsy on Rowdy’s body this week. "A deer, a deer for God’s sake," Schapper said, adding that the deputy fired three shots. "They probably think that was better so some other sporting hunter could go out and shoot that deer instead."
But wildlife is valuable to all Utah citizens, countered Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sgt. Scott White. "The people of the state of Utah own the wildlife and they have a value in that wildlife," White said. "They, along with us, would like to see that wildlife conserved." He lamented the outcome of an incident in Millcreek Canyon, near Salt Lake City, when a group off unleashed dogs illegally chased a moose. "The bull moose ran into a fence, broke its antler off, which ended up giving the animal serious brain damage," White said. "We ended up having to dispose of that animal." Most often, pet owners are to blame when dogs are shot in the act of tormenting wildlife or livestock, he said, adding, "[people] are within their rights, or have the privilege to go ahead and shoot the dog." According to state law, dogs that are "attacking, chasing or worrying" other animals can be shot and their owners charged with a crime.
Summit County Animal Control issued Schapper a citation Friday after her dog was shot. Animal Control officers, who aren’t armed in the line of duty, requested the officer’s assistance, Offret said, adding that the deputy who shot Rowdy has been with the department for several years.
"They are experts in the use of these weapons," he said, describing the single metal slug that likely killed Schapper’s pet.
Wildlife conservation officers are often contacted when dogs torment other animals, however, by the time they respond "most of the time, if not all of the time, the dogs are gone," White said. "We primarily deal with people who are out hiking or biking and their dogs are not on a leash," he added. "It’s the pet owner’s responsibility to be able to control the animal."
Offret stands by his deputy’s decision to shoot the dog. But Schapper intends to contact the Summit County Commission about the killing. A complaint was lodged against the Sheriff’s Office regarding the way officers behaved during the incident, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.
"It don’t have any problem with the shooting, of course, that’s preliminary," Edmunds said, adding that how deputies and animal control personnel acted toward Schapper following the shooting may have been a problem. "We are public servants I’m sensitive to that." "We’ll just look into it on Wednesday," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.
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