Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 19, 2014

Local animal attack remains a mystery

Conservation officer believes pack of wild dogs could be responsible for horse's death

By Martin Slagter Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Residents west of Russiaville are still looking for answers after an animal attack caused the death of a resident’s horse more than a week ago.

A pack of wild dogs, or perhaps a hybrid breed of a wolf and dog, is believed to have attacked horses on two neighboring properties near 250 South, 750 West on March 9. Officials say the attack likely involved multiple animals.

One horse had to be put down when it suffered internal bleeding after it was chased into a fence post. Some of the other horses, Howard County Conservation Officer William Dale said, suffered minor bite and scratch marks during the attack.

The questions remains: What was it?

Dale has ruled out a wolf or coyote as the culprit, mainly because either animal likely would have tried to kill and eat the horses.

The more likely scenario, Dale said, is that a pack of wild dogs got into the horse pen, chasing two of the horses from one neighbor’s property toward another, where four other horses were attacked.

“Nobody knows what it was or saw anything,” Dale said. “Nobody can say whether it was a hybrid dog or a pack of dogs. Talking with a [DNR] biologist out of Lafayette, based on the attack, he does not believe it was a wolf or coyote. At this point, it seems that it was a few dogs running as strays that were attacking livestock and spooked some of the horses.”

Residents in the area believe a hybrid dog or dogs were the attackers, although Dale said there is no evidence as far as tracks or hair left behind to confirm those suspicions. A trail camera from one of the homeowners showed the horses running during the time of the incident, but no other animals were visible on the footage.

DNR Private Lands Wildlife Biologist Rick Peercy, who consulted with Dale about the incident, said a pack of dogs or a pack of hybrids both are capable of such an attack.

“It’s not out of the question that a large breed of domestic dogs [provoked the horses],” Peercy said. “We’ve had reports from other counties where dogs have gotten into pens and barns and chased pigs around until they were dead with claw marks left behind.

“If it was a bunch of dogs, it’s going to take more than one to stir up a bunch of horses,” he added. “If it was a dog/wolf hybrid that had gotten out, they’re a prime suspect.”

Wolf hybrids are legal to own domestically, according to Indiana law. Owners must keep a wolf hybrid in a building or secure enclosure at least 6 feet high and on a leash not more than 8 feet in length.

Owners who do not comply with the requirement could face Class B misdemeanor charges if they knowingly or recklessly allow the animal to enter another person’s property or cause damage to livestock or personal property.

Dale noted there was an incident three weeks prior to the attack on the horses involving hybrid dogs near 550 North, 1050 West, but those animals were accounted for by the owner prior to the latest incident.

During the previous incident in February, two of the hybrid dogs were shot and killed by area hunters who believed the animals were coyotes. Three of the other dogs also were able to jump out of their cage after a large snow drift built up next to the fence. The animals did not attack any livestock and were located a little more than a day after escaping, Dale said.

Because the high snow bank was caused by inclement weather, Dale said the owner of the hybrid dogs was not in violation of the law.

This is important to note, Dale said, because many of the complaints he has received are from residents who believe the dogs at this residence were the ones that attacked the horses on March 9.

Dale is asking area residents not to take matters into their own hands if they see something that looks like a dog/wolf hybrid.

“We’re asking people to be vigilant, but right now this seems like an isolated incident,” he said. “We’re asking that you not just shoot at dogs because you might think [a hybrid] is what it is. We’ve had people call in and say they’ve seen them, but until we have pictures or prints, we’re treating it as an isolated incident.”

Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, martin.slagter@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @slagterm.