Shooting dogs that kill or maim livestock may be the best option rural Salt Lake County ranchers have to protect their herds from marauding packs of canines, says the county's Animal Services director.

Catching the offending dogs is almost impossible because the response time needed to get an animal control officer to the scene of a livestock kill allows the dogs to escape, said Director Peggy Hinnen."These things usually happen in the middle of the night, when we have an officer on call," Hinnen said. "By the time he gets dressed and drives to the area, which is usually far from his home, the dogs are gone. It's a hard thing to say, but the best solution is for the rancher to shoot the dogs."

Hinnen made the remarks during a County Commission meeting at which commissioners discussed a complaint of repeated dog attacks on livestock. The complaint came from a rancher in rural southwest Salt Lake County, and Hinnen admitted Animal Services can do little to help stop the nighttime attacks.

Even if an attack occurs in daylight and an immediate report to Animal Services is made, it's very difficult for an officer to arrive in time to see the dogs, much less catch them, she said.

"There is a very limited time period when the problem can be dealt with," Hinnen said. "You have to deal with it while the dogs are there, or they're gone and it's hard to identify them."

With the limited budget and staffing of Animal Services, it's not feasible to place officers on a 24-hour stakeout in hopes of catching dogs in the act of killing livestock - even at sites where such attacks have occurred, Hinnen said.

Commissioners asked whether ranchers protecting livestock from dogs might violate county ordinances regulating the discharge of firearms.

"We know a lot of dogs are killed in the spring because they've been killing sheep," said Charlie Shepherd, chief deputy sheriff. "You've got to keep your dog tied up. We all know that."