Those who remember local dog mauling remind owners to contain their pets
SUMMIT COUNTY Pet owners who allow their dogs to run loose might not remember 5-year-old Tammy Newton, who was mauled to death by dogs 25 years ago on Peak 7 near Breckenridge. But some people will never forget.
On April 3, 1977, David Drawbert found the mutilated body of his “little neighbor friend” lying face down on his driveway, surrounded by two snarling dogs.
“The dogs lived on one side of my house, the little girl lived on the other,”Drawbert said. “She had walked across the yard to call on her playmate who lived there but (who) was out of town at the time. I found her just off of our front deck. It was April. Her clothing was strewn all over the place; that1s how I recognized her. She was on her stomach.”
There were three dogs in the area following the attack ‹ a St. Bernard, a German shepherd/husky mix and a Norwegian Elkhound puppy. Drawbert said the puppy wasn1t involved, but the other two dogs were notoriously aggressive, and the husky mix had been impounded by animal control on 11 separate occasions prior to the attack. The dogs1 owner, Karen Cavaghan, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. The two dogs were put down.
Following the attack, a wave of fury and panic rippled across the entire state. Summit County Animal Shelter director Nancy Ring said loose dogs were randomly shot in Jefferson County, and Drawbert said a few local residents formed a shotgun-wielding vigilante group that drove through neighborhoods looking for unleashed, uncontained dogs.
Although animal control laws have tightened over the years, and though Summit County law now states dogs must be within voice command of their caretakers at all times, any given neighborhood in the county can account for at least a few dogs that are unsupervised and allowed to roam at will, animal control officials say.
3It1s exactly the mindset of the owner of the dog that was the main perpetrator of this event,² Ring said. 3It was the complacency of those owners that precipitated this type of event in the first place. We used to get so many calls from irate people that moved here and their dogs were picked up (by animal control), and they said, ŒThis is the mountains, we came up here to let our dogs run.1 People live here. This is not the wilderness.²
Although incidents like the one involving Tammy Newton are few and far between, loose dogs not only represent a potential danger to neighbors and passersby, but also to themselves. Last week, Ring said, she received a call from a woman whose teenage son was traumatized after hitting and killing a dog roaming loose in the French Creek neighborhood. She said it happens all the time.
3One minute they can be standing on a snowbank, the next minute they can be under your tires,² she said. 3You don1t have to build a fortress to contain your dog.²
Ring said wire runners and electric fences can be installed inexpensively, and she wants to remind pet owners that impoundment fees for loose dogs picked up by animal control begin at $40.
3Nobody can guarantee what their dog is going to do next,² Drawbert said. 3We have to take care of our animals, not only for the safety of people who live in neighborhoods, but for the safety of the dog. Essentially, pets hit by cars are killed by their owners. You never know what can set a dog off.²
Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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