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Deaths In The Family

Family struggles with aftermath of attack that kills llamas

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Kathleen Watson's llama, Ashley, survived a dog attack March 24 which left one llama dead and Ashley in need of serious medical treatment.

DALLAS -- It takes a little coaxing to bring out Ashley's normally friendly nature these days.

As Kathleen Watson approaches the door to the llama's stall, near the south of end of the Double-U-Ranch off Liberty Road outside Dallas, Ashley darts to the opposite side of the enclosure.

"She normally isn't like this," she said, yanking on the animal's reins. Watson has to jog around the pen for about a minute, pulling in the slack until Ashley finally settles down.

The llama surveys the area with big, brown eyes while Watson strokes her bushy coat

If Ashley appears tense, it's for good reason, Watson said. She's still nursing injuries suffered March 24 when she and a stallion llama were mauled by two German Shepherds from a nearby home.

Ashley was saved when Kathleen Watson's husband, Ted, managed to call off the dogs from their attack. The male llama had been killed earlier -- and partially eaten.

Polk County Sheriff's deputies picked up the dogs the following day and issued a fine of $300 to the owners, Barbara and George Theiss.

They've agreed to repay the Watsons for the lost animal and other related expenses. Both dogs are scheduled to be euthanized today.

For the Watsons, the incident was a grisly case of deja vu. In late February, two dogs crept onto their property and killed a pair of their llamas -- one of them pregnant -- inside the barn.

Ashley and her male companion were supposed to be replacements for those lost in February. They'd only been on the farm for three days.

Kathleen Watson said she is certain that the same dogs were behind both incidents. Sheriff's deputies didn't impound any dogs from the first case because of lack of information.

Barbara Theiss said Kathleen Watson and Don Flammang, who witnessed the first killings, came over to examine her pets and didn't single them out as responsible for the killings.

Flammang, however, said recently that he was "pretty positive" that one of the dogs he looked at was involved.

The Watsons said the incidents have put life on their 30-acre farm at a standstill. It's also put a considerable dent in their pocket books.

The four animals -- counting the unborn kid -- were worth roughly $1,500 apiece.

They may have to board Ashley at an animal hospital at Oregon State University because of her injuries -- gaping wounds where her hind legs connect to her abdomen. That could cost them $2,000.

Ted Watson hopes the dead livestock illustrates an important point to dog owners.

"When I went out there and saw the dogs attacking the llama, I called them to me and they came, tails wagging," he said. "People might think they're cute, but when people let their animals run loose, they can do a lot of damage.

"People need to think about that when they let their dogs out at night."

The latest killing took place the evening of March 24. The Watsons had returned from WalMart to find their cattle out of their enclosure and stampeding out onto Liberty Road. They also heard barks, growls and terrified llama squeals emanating from the pasture behind the barn.

While Kathleen Watson attempted to round up their cows, Ted Watson ran back to investigate the commotion.

He found two German Shepherds on top of and gnawing on a screaming Ashley. Ted Watson called to the dogs, which actually ceased their attack and walked toward him. He managed to collar one of the dogs with his belt.

The couple phoned the police from the house. In the light, Kathleen Watson said she recognized the dog as belonging to the Theisses, one of the dogs she and Flammang had looked at as they canvassed the neighborhood searching for the suspect canines from the February incident.

She called the Theisses, who admitted that their dogs had gotten loose that day. Barbara Theiss said their female German Shepard had dug out from underneath its enclosure and ran off the property, with their male dog in tow.

The next morning, they found what remained of their male llama -- "hundreds of pieces of fur and entrails" -- strewn about a wooded area in the southwest corner of the farm.

Kathleen Watson said last week's episode just adds to the problems the family is still experiencing because of the first incident, which has "put everything into upheaval on the ranch."

She said she can no longer get horses or cattle to enter the barn because of the lingering smell of blood, which prevents her from being able to board horses for friends and neighbors.

"We have two big barns now that are basically useless," she said.

Because the livestock won't enter the barn to feed, Watson has to haul hay out into the pasture.

"I'm a 52-year-old woman with two bad knees," she said "I can't carry around 100 pound hay bales back and forth."

Kathleen Watson said she's even had to halt the 4-H training sessions she held on the farm for children.

She said the second killings might have been avoided if the county hadn't inactivated the first case a few days after it occurred.

According to the police report, Watson told officials that she could identify the guilty dogs.

Dog Control Officer John Kincaid said, however, that the window to keep dog complaint cases open is small, and that the veterinarian testing needed to place a dog at the scene needs to be completed within 48 hours.

Kathleen Watson also expressed anger with animal control officials, saying they were quick to the close case on the second incident.

Kincaid said the county's involvement in the matter stopped when he learned the Theisses and Watsons were handling the cost of the livestock in a civil agreement.

Kathleen Watson said she hadn't been aware of, or consented to that arrangement, until Kincaid told her they were closing the case.

Ted Watson said the guilty party in an incident shouldn't be the one who decides when the matter is resolved.

"Shouldn't it be the person who was injured that gets to make that determination, not the other way around?" he asked.

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