French Camp livestock owners are on the alert after a pack of stray dogs — believed to be pit bulls — killed more than 200 goats in less than a week.
Since Friday, local residents have awoke to dozens — in one case, nearly 100 — goat carcasses scattered throughout their properties, left behind from vicious maulings in the middle of the night.
The killings in French Camp are the latest in a string of pit bull attacks in San Joaquin County in recent weeks.
On April 11, a Stockton woman was mauled to death. That same day, a woman could only watch as a pit bull brutally attacked and killed her cinnamon-red dachshund while walking at Lodi Lake. And three pit bulls are waiting to be prosecuted by the city of Lodi after escaping their yard and injuring another dog.
The maulings have spurred one Lodi employee to propose action that could possibly reduce assaults: an additional fee for owners of aggressive dogs.
But in the meantime, French Camp residents fear more pit bull attacks.
“This was surreal,” said Joe Mayar, manager of Stockton Livestock Auction Yard in French Camp. “It was horrifying, and they’re going to come back.”
Mayar discovered the gruesome scene early Monday morning when he saw at least six aggressive pit bulls viciously slaughtering his goats while piles more laid motionless nearby. When the incident was over and the dogs finally left, Mayar said 87 goats were dead and 73 more suffered injuries so severe that they had to be put down.
One day later, Benjamin Coming of French Camp learned that five of his goats were killed by a pack of feral dogs overnight.
“When I arrived, I didn’t see any dogs,” said Coming, who lives in an urban neighborhood less than two miles from Mayar. “All I saw were my dead goats. The (San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office) just told me they’ve been looking for the dogs but can’t find them (yet).”
Coming’s goats marked the fourth attack in five days in a concentrated area of French Camp.
The pack first struck one of Mayar’s neighbors Friday night, killing 40 goats and roughly 80 chickens and ducks. The following night, they killed roughly 20 goats on another neighbor’s property.
On Wednesday, animal services personnel armed with tranquilizers along with Sheriff’s deputies patrolled a creek in the area, according to Deputy Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
A deputy shot and killed one pit bull, which was identified by two victims as being involved in the attacks, Garcia said.
Garcia added that the Sheriff’s office would keep searching for the remaining dogs.
But Mayar is upset that the Sheriff’s office never warned him about the string of nearby livestock attacks. Mayar said that if he’d known about the wild pit bulls, he could have protected his flock.
“We’ve been here since 1942,” Mayar said. “The Sheriff’s office knows we have a lot of sheep and goats here. They could have come and warned us. My employee and I would have camped out here to watch for the pit bulls.”
Contacted for comment, Garcia said he would need more time to review the matter and respond to Mayar’s concerns.
Mayar has a couple dozen goats left, so he’s moved them to a more secure pen. He’s also trying to prevent another attack by patrolling his property every two hours each night.
Coming is also hoping the dogs don’t strike again. After losing more than $1,000 worth of goats Tuesday night, only 15 remain.
Coming said dogs have never attacked his goats before, but he’s taken steps to prevent another mauling.
He is concerned for the safety of his neighbors, including children who walk in droves to a nearby school.
“It’s dangerous because there are a lot of kids around here,” Coming said.
Coming has three children who attend French Camp Elementary, which is one block away from Mayar’s property.
On Wednesday, after four separate pit bull attacks, the Sheriff’s office told the school about the wild pit bulls. The school then warned all parents and advised them to drive their children to and from school until the dogs are captured.
The Sheriff’s office also believes the dogs are hiding during the day and attacking at night. Several deputies will patrol the neighborhoods surrounding the school when students are dismissed, according to the school.
The Sheriff’s office has warned all surrounding schools, Garcia said.
Pit bulls have been involved in several attacks in San Joaquin County in April.
A pit bull mauled to death Claudia Gallardo, a mother of three, behind the gates of a Stockton home two weeks ago.
That same day, Julia Dare was walking her dachshund in a parking lot at Lodi Lake when a pit bull escaped from its owner and killed her dog.
Recently, Vanessa Foreman of Lodi was lucky. She was sitting with her black lab and sister at Starbucks when a man and his pit bull walked by.
Without warning, the pit bull attacked.
Foreman’s sister used her leg and the table to shield the black lab, which is a service dog for Foreman’s autistic child.
The pit bull’s owner, too weak to restrain his dog, finally managed to pull it away before it injured the black lab.
“If it wasn’t for my sister and the table, the pit bull would have latched onto my dog,” said Foreman, who added that she only walks her dog while carrying a stun gun after hearing about the recent string of attacks.
Jennifer Bender, animal control supervisor for the Lodi Police Department, hopes her idea could reduce dog attacks in Lodi.
She’s proposed that the owner of a dog deemed potentially dangerous by the city should pay $150 on top of a license fee. In addition, they’d have to show proof of homeowners or renters insurance, because some companies won’t cover owners of potentially dangerous dogs.
In French Camp, residents are looking for immediate solutions.
Coming said the Sheriff’s office won’t let him shoot the dogs if they come on his property — only if the pit bulls attack his family or his goats.
Mayar will continue patrolling his property, but he says he will continue to worry until the pit bulls are captured.
“I was scared,” he said. “They’re pit bulls, and if they get a hold of an arm or a leg or a throat, they’re not going to let go.”
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.