Pit bull in deadly sheep attack ordered euthanized

June 16, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |

WASHINGTON COUNTY — A pit bull involved in an a vicious May attack on sheep at a Funkstown farm should be euthanized, the Washington County Animal Control Authority ruled Thursday night.

The dog, Isabella, was one of two pit bulls witnesses said they saw at Joseph Frey’s farm at 116 Old National Pike the morning of May 15, when Frey found six of his sheep dead and 14 others injured.

Eight of the wounded sheep had to be euthanized because of the extent of their injuries, and the remaining six are recovering, Frey said Thursday.

The other dog, Bubba, was shot and killed by Frey’s son, Justin. Isabella ran back to her owner’s home, but was impounded the next day and has been held at the Humane Society of Washington County ever since, animal control officers said.

Animal control officers declared Isabella as “vicious and dangerous” and cited her owner, Kayla Murphy, for allowing the two dogs to run loose.

Murphy appealed both actions, and Thursday’s hearing was held to consider her appeal as well as the fate of Isabella, animal control authority Chairman Adam Greivell said.

The authority heard testimony from the Freys, two veterinarians who treated the sheep in the aftermath of the attacks, a man who said he saw the two pit bulls attacking sheep on the farm the evening of May 14 and from Murphy and her fiancé, Michael Steiner.

The Freys said the sheep were show-sheep, ranging from a few months to a year old, that the family had intended to take to fairs and competitions this summer.

None of the 20 sheep injured in the attack can be shown again, and it is uncertain whether the surviving sheep will still be able to be bred, a veterinarian testified.

Joseph Frey estimated the monetary damage from the attacks at $15,000 to $20,000.

Murphy, who grew tearful as the hearing progressed, said when Isabella returned home, she had blood on her stomach area, “like she was laying in it,” but none on her jaw.

She also said Isabella was white and tan, not grayish blue with brown, as Justin Frey described the dog that ran from the farm.

Murphy described Isabella as friendly and playful and said she had lived on farms before with no issues and had recently shared a home with three cats and a litter of kittens.

She blamed other people living in the house, particularly her 17-year-old brother, for allowing the dogs to get loose.

Randy Roberts, who said he saw two dogs attacking sheep on May 14, said both dogs were participating.

“One sort of corralled the sheep while the other attacked,” Roberts said.

Both veterinarian witnesses testified it was unlikely one dog would have watched the other attacking sheep without participating in the attacks.

The five animal control authority members were unanimous in their decision that Isabella is “vicious and dangerous,” that the at-large citation against the owner should be upheld, and that Isabella should be euthanized.

They imposed no fine on the owners, saying civil action was likely, and any payment by the dogs’ owners should be made toward making up for the Freys’ losses.

Greivell said the case was the first in his year on the animal control board that it had been asked to destroy an animal.

The board will issue a written opinion within 15 days, and the owner will then have the option to appeal that decision in Washington County Circuit Court within 30 days.

However, the owner would be responsible for a $20-a-day impoundment charge, and it could be six months or more before an appeal case is resolved, Greivell said.

Murphy said after the hearing she was unsure whether she would appeal.

In a separate “vicious and dangerous” dog case also scheduled to be heard Thursday, the authority dismissed an appeal by owner Denesa Churchey of Sharpsburg because she did not file her appeal of the “vicious and dangerous” declaration in the 10-day-period allowed by the county’s animal control ordinance.

That case involved three dogs, Angel, Scrappy and Miqo.

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