Five dairy heifers are dead and more than a half-dozen were injured in two pit bull attacks Sunday off Oktoc Road.
Mactoc Farm farmer Bill McGee was asleep Sunday just before 3 a.m. when he was awakened by the sound of a heifer in distress. When McGee went outside to investigate, he saw a tan pit bull "clamped down" on the head of one of his 3-month-old heifers, he said.
McGee shouted at the pit bull, then fired his 20-gauge shotgun at the dog and it ran away.
But the damage was done. One heifer was dead, two were maimed and another received minor injuries.
McGee eventually went to bed and woke up later Sunday morning to discover three more heifers were dead in another pasture and a half-dozen others were injured. Several were missing ears and tails, and chunks of meat were visible through torn skin.
"That tan pit was a powerful dog," he said. A small black and tan pit bull accompanied the tan pit bull during the attack, McGee said.
Sunday night, family friend Mark Murphy kept watch over the farm's approximately 420 heifers in case the dogs came back. They did and they brought friends.
Just before 10 p.m. Sunday, the tan pit bull returned with the small black and white dog and two others. Murphy shot the black and white dog, McGee said, and the remaining dogs scattered. But the group had killed another heifer, which brought the death total to five, McGee said.
Outside Starkville city limits, Oktibbeha County has no leash laws or vicious dog laws, Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy George Carrithers said. The county doesn't have an animal control officer either, so Sheriff's Department deputies sometimes take "wild" dogs to the county animal shelter, Carrithers said.
"But if you've got wild dogs chasing livestock in Mississippi, the law allows you to take care of the problem," Carrithers said. "It's not illegal to shoot a dog if it's chasing your livestock."
Sitting in their home Monday afternoon, Bill and Patsy McGee were distressed.
"I don't know what the solution is, but county-wide, something needs to happen," Bill McGee said. "It's just horrible to find these heifers all mangled up. It was just very depressing and distressing and now you've got that feeling like, 'I can't go to bed without somebody being on guard.'"
Monday afternoon, McGee was preparing for another encounter with the dogs.
"If they come back tonight, we'll be ready," McGee said. "We're going to have a lot of firepower out here."
The Sheriff's Department has been patrolling the area and questioning neighbors in an attempt to find the dogs, Carrithers said.
Bill McGee says he has contacted residents of the Browning Creek subdivision, located directly across Oktoc Road, and warned them to be wary of the wandering pit bulls.
"We've been out here 31 years and we've never had anything like this before," Patsy McGee said.
The largest heifer killed in the attacks weighed nearly 400 pounds.