By Allison Floyd, Athens Banner-Herald
State law classifies her sheep as livestock, but Patricia Voytik thinks of the woolly animals as pets.
So she's understandably sad after a trio of roaming dogs attacked her flock the day after Christmas, killing one and leaving two others so injured they had to be euthanized, according to Voytik's daughter, Linda Bridges.
"One died before we even found it. Two had to be put down. Six or seven had to have some sort of surgery," Bridges said.
The family was together at the Voytik's home on Deerfield Road, a rural area off Cleveland Road in Western Clarke County, when they discovered the sheep huddled in a corner of the pasture, Patricia Voytik told Athens-Clarke police.
When Voytik spotted the dogs, a relative rushed outside and shot two of them; the third got away while he returned to the house to get another round of ammunition, according to a police report.
The area hasn't had much trouble with roaming dogs hurting pets or livestock, Bridges said. "My mother has lived out here 30-something years, and there's usually not a problem," she said.
The dogs were pit bull mixes, according to the police report, and the one that survived went to its home nearby.
That owner and the person who owned the other two dogs were cited for failure to control an animal and failure to display a rabies tag, according to Patrick Rives, superintendent of Animal Control for Athens-Clarke County.
But there's not much else they can be charged with under state and local law, according to Rives.
If a dog is unprovoked but attacks a pet cat or dog, the aggressive animal may be classified as a potentially dangerous dog, invoking certain requirements for fencing. If a dog bites a person, that dog may be classified as dangerous under state law, and even more protections kick in, according to Rives.
But the law treats livestock victims - like Voytik's sheep - differently, Rives said.
"We didn't think that made a bit of sense considering the amount of damage they did," Bridges said.
"The sheep are pets," Bridges said. Voytik had bottle-fed one of the ewes in her kitchen when it was a lamb and watched the animal grow into the oldest sheep in the flock.
"It was hard to see that animal put down," Bridges said.