A dog deemed responsible for a chicken-killing spree last week in Bend was spared Wednesday evening after the Deschutes County Dog Control Board ruled it could go back home to its owners.
Cayuse, a brown and black Labrador mutt owned by Mike and Brenda Simpson, was implicated in the death of four chickens in a neighbor's yard Jan. 10 after he was found running near Joah Ash's property on Sunridge Drive on the outskirts of southeast Bend.
In a dog board hearing Tuesday evening, three dog board members found the canine guilty of running loose in the area and killing the chickens. The board, however, released Cayuse to the Simpsons but ordered the couple to pay Ash $100 in compensation, build an adequate fenced-in space for the dog by Jan. 27 and pay the county a $500 fine.
According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, Cayuse, a 1 1/2-year-old dog, broke into Ash's chicken coop in the late morning or early afternoon of Jan. 10. Of the eight chickens in the coop, four were killed, two are still missing and one died Wednesday after barely surviving the attack.
“It was a horrible experience,” Ash said Tuesday. “We'd raised the chicks since they hatched.” Ash returned home around 1:15 p.m. and found the carnage when he went to go feed the chickens, he said prior to the hearing.
It had recently snowed, and Ash followed the paw prints left behind by the culprit. He followed them down the road, and observed a dog running loose.
“You could see the tracks clearly in the snow — two sets coming and going,” Ash said. “It came directly to the coop, taking the most direct path of travel to get the chickens.”
At that point, he called the police, who contacted the dog's owner, Mike Simpson, on nearby Chickasaw Way. At the hearing, Simpson said his 16-year-old daughter, who was home sick at the time, had let Cayuse and another dog they owned outside. Sheriff's deputies cited Simpson for his dog chasing livestock and allowing an animal at large, and Cayuse was held at the Humane Society of Central Oregon until the board hearing. The Simpsons were responsible for paying the costs of boarding the dog at the shelter.
Mike Simpson said the dog had been loose for about an hour, and had no history of aggression toward livestock until the incident last week.
During the hearing, the Simpsons said that while Cayuse clearly ran off their property, they didn't believe the dog committed the crime. Cayuse had no blood on him after the incident, and no dead chickens were found on the Simpsons' property, Deputy Krista Mudrick told the board.
The Simpsons noted that the Sunridge Homeowners' Association prohibits chickens in the subdivision, and they submitted a copy of the document for the board to consider.
Brenda Simpson also said she believed coyotes may have broken into the coop and killed the chickens. Mudrick disagreed, saying the paw prints matched those of Cayuse exactly.
“I'm very confident in my report, and I'm confident that your dog (Cayuse) killed those chickens,” Mudrick testified to the board.
The board agreed that Cayuse killed the chickens, but for the first time, under an option available to the board, returned the animal to its owners. The county in December amended an ordinance pertaining to dogs injuring or killing livestock.
County attorney John Laherty, who oversaw the hearing, said the ordinance was updated to specifically address the issue of chickens and fowl being killed by dogs. Board members felt that having only two options, either removing the dog from the property or euthanizing it, was too harsh.
Despite losing his family pets, which his 12-year-old daughter was particularly fond of, Ash said he did not want to see the dog put down or the owner fined. His main concern was to make sure the dog never attacked any other animals in the neighborhood ever again. He said he may use the $100 from the Simpsons to reinforce his chicken coop, though it's really not about the money for him.
“The monetary value doesn't really represent the time and effort you put into the chickens, or the hardship it causes when you lose them,“ Ash said.