PAYSON — Two dogs were shot and killed over the weekend in a rural farming area of Utah County after wandering onto a neighbor's property.
The man who shot the dogs, an off-duty Utah County Sheriff's deputy, told investigators the dogs were attacking one of his turkeys and about to kill it. The dog owner, however, doesn't believe her animals would have seriously harmed the bird and questions whether the use of deadly force was necessary.
On Saturday, Amelia Powers said a turkey from her neighbor's yard wandered onto her five-acre property on West Mountain where her dogs "Buddy," a 3-year-old Lhasa-Cocker Spaniel mix, and "Gibbs," an 8-month old Beagle, saw the bird.
Powers said she has chickens on her property and the dogs have been trained not to bother them. But the dogs had not seen a turkey before, she said, and followed the bird back to its property.
According to the Payson Police Department, which was asked to investigate the case because of a conflict of interest with the Utah County Sheriff's Office and the deputy, the off-duty deputy heard a commotion in his yard, went outside and "saw two dogs in the stages of trying to kill his turkey on his property," said Payson Police Lt. Bill Wright.
He shot one dog and both started to run away. The second dog then turned around and started heading back toward the turkey and was subsequently shot and killed by the deputy. The second dog that made it home was shot in the jaw and eventually succumbed to his injuries.
The deputy called 911. Utah County sheriff's deputies and Payson police responded.
Wright said there was "ample evidence what had happened" when other officers arrived at the scene and "no doubt what had carried on." Wright said there were "substantial wounds" on the turkey. There was no word Monday on the turkey's condition.
But Powers contended the dogs were only "pawing" at the turkey because they were curious and wanted to play with it, and that there were no bite marks on the bird. She also says she has at least one witness who claims the dogs were 10 feet away from the turkey when they were shot.
Powers said the deputy claimed he fired a warning shot first. But she believes if he would have thrown a rock at her dogs or even walked to them and kicked them, they would have run home. Then, she said, they would have worked on training the dogs to leave the turkey alone.
"It would have taken nothing to correct that behavior," she said.
Powers also said the the deputy claimed to not know whose dogs they were. If nothing else, she said that proved that her dogs had not wandered onto the neighboring property before.
Payson police said the deputy had reported several of his chickens being killed a few days earlier, although it was unclear if that was the result of a neighborhood pet or a predator.
Wright said the incident was still under investigation, including a review of the law about the use of deadly force when livestock is attacked. The case will be turned over to the Payson City Attorney's Office to be screened for any possible charges.
The Utah County Sheriff's Office Monday said it was looking into the case and did not have any immediate comment.