Payson residents say neighbor dogs killed their sheep

Posted at 8:23 PM, Nov 14, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-16 20:57:01-05

PAYSON, Utah - Two Utah County dog owners could face criminal charges after their dogs allegedly killed 18 sheep on the hills west of Payson.

It happened Saturday. Sheep owner Deana Jepperson says a neighbor spotted the pack of four dogs attacking the sheep. By the time they and sheriff’s deputies got there, it was too late.

“It’s just heart breaking because that’s our paycheck, gone,” says Jepperson.

Deputies tried to catch the dogs, but they got two got away. By Sunday, Jepperson says the dogs were again attacking the herd.

“These were people’s own pets,” says Jepperson. “They weren’t wild. They belong to somebody.”

Jepperson says they witnessed a dog attack one sheep, and her husband shot it. A trail of blood lead deputies to the dog’s owner. The dog later died from the gunshot.

It’s within an owner’s right to protect their livestock, but it doesn’t make it any easier on the pet owners.

“The owner of the sheep has every right to be upset about the loss,” says Utah County Sheriff’s Sergeant Spencer Cannon. “The owners of the pets are understandably concerned and upset as well, for different reasons.”

Ranchers in the area say they’ve had issues with dogs in the past. They worry residents moving from the city don’t realize the danger it can be to let dogs roam free.

“Dogs are just pack animals,” says Jepperson. “It’s their instincts. When they get together, they’re going to cause mischief.”

Jepperson says they estimate between $12,000 and $20,000 in damages. Some sheep are still missing.

The dog owners face possible misdemeanor charges of allowing dogs to run at large, allowing attacks by dogs, and maintaining a public nuisance.

Cannon says the owners were surprised their dogs were involved, saying at home the dogs are non-violent.

"People with vicious dogs claim they’re perfectly docile,” says Cannon. “Well, that’s true when they’re with their owner.”

For now, the owners will be allowed to keep the dogs, given they don’t get off the property.