WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – For the third time this summer, students at Roots Charter High School in West Valley City are trying to figure out how to protect the school’s farm animals from a dog that animal officials say “just wants to kill.”
Since June, the German Shepherd mix has terrorized alpacas, goats, sheep and pigs at the agriculture-focused charter high school – killing 11 livestock animals and several chickens.
The dog did not act alone in the June attack that killed a couple of sheep, said farm manager David Haynes. Another dog was with him, but that dog has since been euthanized, Haynes said. Surveillance video caught part of that attack on camera.
Still, the animal that keeps coming back for more has been merciless – attacking and killing two alpacas last week and severely injuring a piglet Wednesday morning.
According to Officer Nathan Beckstead with West Valley City Animal Services, the dog is well-known in the neighborhood. The neighbors like him, Beckstead said, feeding him frequently.
“He is just attacking [these animals] to kill,” Beckstead told News4Utah over the phone Wednesday, saying the injuries on the animals are not consistent with a dog hunting for food.
Thursday, the piglet the canine attacked was in critical condition. By the afternoon, that piglet had been stitched up, but only time will tell if it will survive.
ATTACKS HURTING STUDENTS’ EDUCATION
Tyler Bastian, founder and director of Roots Charter High School, said the dog attacks on the school farm have been devastating, both emotionally and financially.
Each animal costs hundreds of dollars, some rented out by students who want hands-on farming experience.
“You’re talking thousands of dollars, it’s really hard to even calculate,” said Bastian.
The school, which enrolls many at-risk students, aims to keep teenagers engaged by helping them care for the animals and the seeds they plant.
For Bastian, the now frequent dog attacks bring guilt and a feeling of helplessness.
“We are a small school, only 180 students. As these losses continue it really does jeopardize what we are trying to do here,” Bastian said.
Senior Sarah Sherwin said much of her summer was spent dealing with the attacks, coming to the school’s farm to assess the situation. Sherwin has a keen interest in farming, thanks to Roots.
Sherwin was awakened by a phone call June 1 after the dog attacked the sheep.
“We had to put our sheep down. We had to hold them as they died,” she said. “We’ve had a baby goat die,” she added. “At this point, I feel numb.”
Sherwin said the school has started a fundraiser to help recover the costs of the lost animals and to possibly build better fencing around the urban farm. Their goal is to raise $12,000 – but if more attacks occur, that cost may rise.
ELUDING ANIMAL SERVICES
Officer Nathan Beckstead with West Valley City Animal Services says two officers tried to chase the dog down Thursday morning for an hour and a half. He said neighbors have an affinity for the stray animal, rumored to have become a stray after his homeless owner died. Beckstead said while those reports are unsubstantiated, the dog has been spotted several times.
He said since neighbors like to feed the dog, officers hope he will show up at predictable locations and they can apprehend him. It’s unclear what will happen to the dog after he’s caught. Beckstead said they will have to assess the animal’s behavior and determine whether he’s a viable candidate for adoption.
Bastian said he just wants the dog off the streets.
“I’m not advocating for the death of the dog, I’m advocating for the removal of the dog,” said Bastian.
Anyone who spots the dog is asked not to approach it and to call animal services at (801)-965-5800.