Police Nab Llama-Killing Dogs

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Payson police captured two dogs Thursday suspected of killing four llamas and wounding eight others in two separate incidents at the Goose Valley Llama Ranch off Longhorn Road.

One of the two mixed-breed dogs was injured when Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner ordered an officer to shoot it.

"It's unfortunate that we had to shoot the dog, but we can't just let these dogs keep killing the llamas," Gartner said.

Bob Skousen, owner of the farm, said one of the wounded llamas, a baby, was bitten all over and may not survive.

"They also tore part of the face and an eye of another, but she will survive," Skousen said.

The first llama fatality occurred a month ago when an adult female was attacked.

Since then, the dogs had been spotted on the ranch, but the llamas had been locked up. Skousen said they were not locked up Wednesday when the second attack occurred.

"I couldn't leave them locked up all the time because someone lets their dogs run loose," Skousen said.

A ranch employee discovered the dead and wounded llamas and Skousen decided to leave two carcasses out, hoping to attract the dogs and catch them.

On Thursday morning, he called police to report the dogs had returned -- two large mix-breed dogs which he had seen previously.

"Right after (Skousen) let the llamas out, the two dogs showed up," Gartner said. "No one actually saw these dogs attack the llamas, but they were seen in the area of the attack both times."

"When I saw them this morning, the llamas were stampeding," Skousen said. "I called Chief Gartner. They were the same two dogs I believe are the culprits."

Skousen said the dogs attacked the hind quarters and genitals until the llama collapsed.

"It's an awful death," he said. "And once animals taste llama, it's like being on cocaine -- they'll keep coming back for more. And they did."

Police chased the two dogs and cornered one on West Frontier Street, shooting it in the hind leg. The other dog was captured later in its yard and delivered to the humane society. The injured dog was taken to a Valley hospital for treatment.

"We had a police volunteer transport the dog to the Valley," Gartner said. "The prognosis is not good."

Gartner said the dogs' owner, who lives on West Wade Lane, has been out of town for more than a week.

"There was supposed to be someone watching the dogs, but they do not look like they are well-cared for," Gartner said. "They are skittish and look thin and unkempt. I think they have been running loose for a while."

"We were finally able to contact the owner who was out of state," Payson Police Sgt. Todd Bramlet said. "He told us he wanted to have both dogs put down, so we told him to contact the animal hospital and the humane society."

Under Arizona State Law, it is legal to kill a dog that attacks livestock, Gartner said.

Bramlet said he is still researching what criminal charges the owner could face.

"At a minimum, he can be cited for allowing his dogs to run at large," Bramlet said. "We don't have any information that the dogs have been vicious before. The dogs would run away, but they were not aggressive towards us."

The dogs could be classified as nuisance animals, but to be deemed vicious, they must have a history of attacking humans.

Bramlet said the owner could be liable for the cost of the llamas and their veterinary care in a civil court.

"I am going to talk to an attorney about it, but I haven't decided what to do yet," Skousen said. "I am just happy they caught two of the dogs."

Skousen said he believes there may have been more than two dogs that attacked the llamas, but as of Friday morning, had not seen any other dogs at his ranch.

Skousen has owned the farm for 18 years and has never had something like this happen before. He said the economic loss of the dead llamas alone is about $40,000.

"We have had dogs in here before, but they just chase the llamas, they don't attack them," he said. "Coyotes never bother us -- they just run away. It doesn't feel like we are safe here anymore. People shouldn't allow their dogs to just run loose."

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