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Neighborhood Dogs Shot After Savage Attack on Moose

MAULING: Bloodied cow defends calf until biologist kills pit bull, rottweiler

Doug O'Hara / Anchorage Daily News / May 10, 2005

The Rottweiler and the pit bull attacked the pregnant moose along 72nd Avenue early Saturday morning. Last year's calf, now nearly grown, cowered behind her.

Over and over, the dogs lunged at the mother. They bit her nose and tore it open. They ripped her ear. One slashed her haunches.

The moose stood firm between the dogs and her calf. At last, the dogs retreated, romping off through the sleepy neighborhood east of Lake Otis Parkway.

But it wasn't over. The dogs kept coming back. One noisy skirmish in a back yard prompted a call to police.

Two of the four animals would soon be dead.

When state biologist Rick Sinnott arrived about 6:15 a.m. a man with an aluminum baseball bat and a pellet pistol stood between the moose and the dogs. Barking outside his house woke him up, the man said, and he'd been trying to chase the dogs off since.

Over the next half-hour, Sinnott stayed near the moose. The dogs would run off, disappear among houses, then return after 10 or 15 minutes.

"Three times I drove my truck between the two moose and the two dogs," he said. "Once I attempted to call the dogs to me. When I was out of the truck, neither would get closer to me than about 10 yards. The pit bull barked and ran."

Sinnott looked over the moose's injuries from a safe distance. The leg bites hadn't crippled her. Not yet.
"She might be able to defend herself and the yearling from one dog, but two working together were much more dangerous," he said.

State law allows anyone to kill loose dogs that can't be caught when they harass or attack game animals. Sinnott shot a dog in 2000 on the Hillside after it and a wolfish-looking animal injured a moose that later had to be killed. It resulted in an uproar by dog lovers.

"I don't like to shoot dogs, but I will not let them maul moose," Sinnott said.

He was also worried that the cow was getting so edgy she might lash out at children, joggers or dog walkers out for a stroll in the clear, cool morning.

"I wasn't going to leave until the moose were safe from the dogs," he said. "I decided to shoot both dogs if they made another attempt."

The two moose walked down 72nd Avenue, eating grass along a wooden fence. Sinnott parked at a side street with a clear shot of their position. Shortly after 7 a.m., the dogs returned and trotted right at the moose.

At 10 yards, Sinnott raised his shotgun and killed the pit bull with a 12-gauge slug. When the Rottweiler turned, he shot it too.

Neighbors came out at the noise, some initially upset. Sinnott explained the situation and took the remains to the animal control compound off Bragaw Street.

It turned out the dogs both had records for aggressive behavior toward animals, said Beth Wallan, spokeswoman for animal control. Both carried identifying microchips under the skin between their shoulder blades.

The owner, who was very upset at the death of his dogs, picked up the bodies Monday, Wallan said. The agency would not release his phone number. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Sinnott said he heard from the owner Monday. The dogs had been under someone else's care while he was out of town and had gotten loose. He wanted to know why Sinnott didn't try harder to catch them first. Maybe use a dart gun to tranquilize them? Wait for animal control?

Sinnott said he gave the dogs every chance he reasonably could.

"I'm not a dog catcher," he said later. "It's not my job to drive around town capturing dogs. I'm going to protect moose, and I'm going to do it the quickest way I can."

Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at do'harra@adn.com.

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