Kremmling family loses flock of sheep to dogs at large
December 17, 2008
After several dog attacks slaughtered their herd, a Kremmling, Colorado, family has given up raising sheep.
Dave and Chris Sammons and their children bought orphan sheep and a ewe from the 4-H sale in 2006. They raised them from bottles as a “nice” family project. This spring they had four ewes and four wethers. After the pregnant ewes gave birth in May, they had 13 sheep altogether.
“Some of which were very little, very frisky and very cute,” Chris Sammons said.
That was before the dog attacks.
The first assault was in April. It cost them $400 in veterinarian bills.
“One of the pregnant ewes was very badly injured,” Chris Sammons said, adding that it almost lost its leg.
At the end of May, a family member alerted them that dogs were again going after their sheep.
“Just about the time we were about to take care of it the way that ranchers do, which is shoot the offending dog, the owner showed up and begged for mercy,” she said, even though the dogs had run the sheep nearly to death.
The third attack was in early June.
A lamb suffered extensive facial and neck injuries and had to have stitches. This vet bill was about $100. The sheep also needed extra care afterwards.
Attack number four happened at the end of July.
“There were 13 when we went to bed,” she said. “There were 10 dead ones (when we woke.)”
The children were sleeping during the massacre.
“Two of them had to be destroyed because they were so badly mauled,” Dave Sammons said. “It was pretty gruesome.”
The children were “devastated” and cried when they found out what happened, Dave said.
“Even though we’re tough ranch kids, there’s some things that tough ranch kids shouldn’t have to see,” Chris said. “It’s hard to not become emotionally attached to your animals.”
They think they might know which dogs are responsible.
“We have suspicions,” Dave Sammons said, “but we don’t have proof.”
They believe it was the same dogs, a German shepherd and pit bull, from a previous attack when the owner begged for the dogs’ lives.
“A friend told us that that his friend’s dogs had come home that morning so bloody they had to put them in the shower,” Chris Sammons said.
The final attack occurred at the end of October.
“A guy driving down the highway sees two big husky looking dogs, out attacking our sheep,” she said. “He calls the sheriff’s department and the town police responded.”
The officer caught the dogs in mid-attack.
One sheep died from this attack, they said.
The owner was given a ticket for unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog, said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.
“We were left with two wethers ” a big wether and a tiny wether ” that was that ewe’s baby, and we just gave them to the vet,” Dave Sammons said.
Dogs on the loose
“They had to have been very determined dogs to get in my sheep pen because it is fenced with a 5-foot-high woven wire fence,” Chris Sammons said. “If you can fence a sheep in, you should be able to fence a dog out.”
The Sammons estimate that they lost about $2,000 from the flock of sheep and three vet bills.
They also have cows and horses. Dogs have harassed the cows as well, she said.
“We had three separate instances where dogs had to go away because they are in our cattle,” she said. “The state of Colorado protects us, as livestock owners. If our animals are in danger, we can use lethal force to protect our animals … We would like to see people take more responsibility with their pets, because we don’t like to do that.”
Under the Cruelty to Animals Statute affirmative defense applies when a dog found running, worrying, or injuring sheep, cattle, or other livestock is shot or injured. The shooter can still be charged with the crime but will automatically be entitled to use that defense if it applies.
Leash laws should be put in place in the Grand County, Chris Sammons said.
“(Dogs) chase things and they kill,” she said. “Even though it’s the same dog that that morning was licking your face and sleeping in bed with you, when he gets up and sees a prey animal running from him ” a rabbit, a bird a cat, a small kid screaming, a sheep ” that’s what they do. That instinct kicks in and they turn into killers.”
Sheriff Johnson said citizens could push for a leash law, but he cannot create an ordinance. Hot Sulphur Springs is the only town in Grand County that has a leash law, he said.
“As communities grow there becomes a lot more conflicts between animals and people,” he said, adding that issues with dogs running at large increase.
“What we don’t like to see is senseless destruction because of somebody’s negligence,” Chris Sammons added. “In this case we were (taken) out of business.”
” Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or email@example.com.