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5 'dangerous' dogs rescued by Avon police and Eagle County Animal Services – Vail Daily

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Clarification: The terminology included in the story reflects the language used in interviews with the Vail Daily by those who initial encountered the dogs, and witnessed fearful behavior that manifested in aggression.
Around 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2, the Avon Police Department received a call: Five aggressive dogs were lurking around Wagon Trail Road, near the new Maverik gas station. Officers responded, and after nearly four hours, much of it spent in the pouring rain and the dark, a group of 10 including Avon police officers, Eagle County Animal Services officers, visiting training officers, and a canine specialist were able to capture four of the five dogs.
On the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 3, the crew from the night before returned to the site, and, after several hours, were able to bring in the final dog.
Avon Police Sergeant John Mackey was the first on the scene following the call.
“I found the five animals in the cul-de-sac, chewing on sticks and plastic bags,” Mackey said. “Initially they were playful amongst each other. They were curious as to me. However, when I tried to approach them, they became a little bit more unapproachable.”
Mackey then called Eagle County Animal Services for advice. “Being five animals that were medium in size, there was no way that I and one partner would be able to manage the animals, just due to sheer numbers, but also the behavior they were starting to display,” he said.
Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jordan Harrison arrived to assist Mackey.
“We initially tried to calm the animals and tried to gain a little rapport with them. However, that was not working, and then animal services arrived,” Mackey said.
The officers on the scene identified the five dogs as an alpha female, a large male, and three young adults.
“We tried initially to get one under control, and when the animal control officer used one of their tools (a catch pole) to be able to control the animal, the five then became extremely aggressive and actively went after the animal control officer,” Mackey said.
“Any time we tried to approach the animals using catch poles, they went absolutely ballistic,” said Avon Police Chief Greg Daly, who arrived on the scene later that night. “Between catch poles and the cages we brought out, they seemed to have an extremely negative reaction to both of those items.”
The five dogs aggressively pursued every officer who attempted to catch them, leading the officers to retreat to their vehicles to brainstorm a new approach.
“There was a conversation about how we were going to corral these dogs. Because of their aggression, there was a concern that we would have to use lethal force on these dogs, which was the last thing we wanted to do, but with five extremely aggressive dogs, our concern was, would they get by us … and potentially attack innocent civilians,” Daly said.
Eventually, 10 people assembled on the scene to capture the dogs, including Avon police officers, Eagle County Animal Services officers, an Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputy, visiting training officers, and a local canine trainer, Steve Hueston.
It became clear to the officers on scene that the dogs were incredibly hungry, and officers decided to try feeding the dogs.
“I think we got five bags of kibble. The idea was, we were going to try to put the food in three piles at the end of the cul-de-sac, separate the dogs, and try to ultimately capture the very aggressive female,” Daly said.
“They were ravenous,” Daly said. “We gave them the food, and they were eating it up like they hadn’t eaten in weeks,” Daly said.
As the animals ate, officers unsuccessfully attempted to capture them using catch poles.
“Any time we went near them, they would either run away or they would start aggressively coming at us,” Daly said. Attempts to lure the dogs into cages by placing minced meat inside also failed. “They were too smart for that,” Daly said.
“Then it started to rain — torrentially rain. Everybody got soaking wet. But we had a common goal: To try to get these dogs into protective custody, and not have to use lethal force, that was our common agreement,” Daly said.
Ultimately, nature aided the officers in capturing the dogs. The sun set, and to evade the cold and rain, one of the dogs crawled underneath an officer’s truck. “We used that opportunity to use the poles to capture one of the dogs underneath the truck,” Daly said.
Over the next hour and a half, officers employed the same approach, placing four dogs in protective custody in cages.
Though they tried to capture the fifth dog, she repeatedly ran up into the hillside behind the road, evading officers.
“I didn’t want anybody getting injured, trying to go up into the hills in the darkness. Plus, the fact that we had dispersed the five down from five to one, I wasn’t as concerned about the pack mentality of the five of them together,” Daly said.
On the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 3, officers from Eagle County Animal Services, alongside Hueston, captured the outstanding dog in a humane animal trap, after Avon police officers spent several hours calming her.
It was an unusual situation for all involved, even those with extensive canine experience. “I’ve been a cop for 27 years. I’ve never had more than one aggressive dog in 27 years,” Daly said. No officers and no dogs were harmed in the process of capturing the dogs.
“It was pretty scary, to be honest. When I arrived, I could not believe how aggressive these dogs were, so to get from that point in time to four of them in protective custody was — it was a tremendous event,” Daly said.
The Avon Police Department’s current working theory is that the dogs were abandoned in Avon, though the motive and culprit are unknown as of now. “It wasn’t the dogs’ fault for being in the situation they were in, and whatever mistreatment and malnourishment they had,” Daly said.
It is known that no calls have come into the Vail Public Safety Communications Center about five missing dogs, and the dogs are not the size or breed identified as sheep dogs in the area.
The Avon Police Department is working to obtain video of the scene from Maverik gas station, but the request, required to be processed by Maverik’s corporate chain of command, has not yet been granted.
All five dogs are now in residence the Eagle County Animal Shelter.
“They’re doing great. They’re very nervous, still, but we’ve been able to touch each one of them, and they have great appetites, and they seem to be settling in just fine,” said Rhiannon Rowe, the manager of Eagle County Animal Shelter.
“We’re going to give them the week to get settled. They will see our vet next Monday to be spayed or neutered, and then they will go up for adoption,” Rowe said.
Soon, the dogs will be accepting visitors at the Eagle County Animal Shelter.
“We hope that people will come and visit them once they’re up for adoption, consider taking them home. They’re really sweet dogs. We think they’re going to be excellent family members once they gain some confidence and realize that the world is not that scary. They’ve been through a pretty traumatic event, so we just want to make sure that they’re getting the chance to relax and realize that life is good,” Rowe said.

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