BEND, Ore. - Three pigs died this week after a dog snuck into their pen and attacked in Deschutes River Woods - and later a 2-1 vote by a Deschutes County citizen panel had the dog returned to its owners.
One of the pigs died quickly in the attack last Saturday, a second soon after, and the third was euthanized later that evening, their owners said.
The third pig belonged to Samantha Elkin of Bend, 12, who was raising the livestock for the Deschutes County Fair that starts next Wednesday.
Her mother, Maura, was one of the first on the scene.
"It was a horrible experience," she said Friday. "Just seeing the one pig laying there dead in its mud hole, and two suffering."
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies arrived on scene and restrained the dog, a pit bull breed.
The incident was then brought to the Deschutes County Dog Control Board, and in a 2-1 vote, the dog was returned to its owners.
John Laherty, Deschutes County legal counsel, said the dog's lack of previous history of such incidents kept it from being euthanized.
"There was no evidence of a prior history of incidents like this from the dog," Laherty said. "The board had its choice of alternatives."
Alternatives included giving the animal up for adoption, as well as forbidding the animal from staying in an area near livestock.
The dog is normally not in areas with pigs or cattle, its owners said, but was being watched by friends of the owners who live in that area.
Officials said the dog will now be back with its owners, located in a more urban part of the city -- something that concerns Elkin even more.
"The sound of a squealing pig sounds a lot like children playing and having fun, and that worries me," she said.
Prior to the incident, the dog owners had reached out to Battle Buddies of Central Oregon, a non-profit organization that recruits and trains service dogs for individuals suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. They had applied their animal for training with the program.
Battle Buddies Training Director Karin Long said that while she's had limited time with the animal, based on what she had seen, it was more than deserving of a chance to be trained.
"It's got basic temperament," said Long. "We've grabbed at (its) face, legs and paws, and despite us being strangers, (it) hasn't lashed out at all."
Long also suggested that the scene painted by officials and witnesses might not tell the whole story.
Although the owners wouldn't comment on the story, they allowed the animal to accompany Long for the interview. She showed scratches and bite marks on the dog's arms, legs and tail.
"Pigs can be pretty brutal," she said. "So maybe it tried to play, and the pig saw a predator, and maybe didn't want to play with the dog -- and then things turned ugly."
But Elkin, who's now lost three pigs from the dogs attack, doesn't think that could have happened.
"It would have been easier for (it) in self-defense trying to get away from the pigs to just leap from the fence in which (it) got in," she said.
The dog owners asked that their identities and that of the animal remain anonymous. But they said they accept full responsibility for the animal's actions. The dog is in the early stages of the application process to become a service animal with Battle Buddies.
In comments on NewsChannel 21's Facebook page, Long made clear she was not blaming the pigs for the tragic events.
"Some of my comments (to the reporter) were intended to raise awareness to people who have dogs and live near livestock," she wrote. "If you live in an area where there's livestock, it is your responsibility to train your dog to not harass livestock."
The dog's owners expect to pay close to $6,000 in damages; however such reimbursements and punishments will be decided at a later date through the court system.