JEFFERSONVILLE — Patsy Watson Sams started raising goats about three years ago to clear the brush in fields around her parents’ old home on Bullard Road.
Tuesday morning she received a call from her brother that many of the goats were dead.
Surveying the goat pen early Tuesday afternoon she found eight of her 17 goats dead.
While she found four alive, one was bleeding so badly she said it’d likely need to be put down. One of her ears had been chewed off, the other torn.
“There’s no need for her to suffer,” said Sams, of Lizella.
The others were unaccounted for late Tuesday.
Sams’ niece, Mindy Watson, said she heard dogs near her aunt’s goat pen late Monday night and drove into an adjacent field. She tried to scare off the dogs by blowing the car’s horn.
Hundreds of heads of livestock in Twiggs County have been killed by dogs in the past three years.
Owners of goats and rams killed blame packs of dogs — pit bulls, German shepherds, bulldog mixes and other dogs — for the deaths.
Twiggs County Chief Deputy Sheriff Billy Boney said it’s common that dogs attack livestock, but generally only one or two animals are hurt at a time.
Deputies are limited in how much they can help, said Capt. Nathan Hendrix.
Boney said deputies will operate a cage on Sams’ property to try to catch the dogs.
Since the county doesn’t have an animal control department, deputies will then take any trapped dogs to the Macon Animal Shelter where Twiggs County will be charged $50 per dog, he said.
Hendrix said residents can shoot the dogs if they’re protecting “life and property,” including humans, pets and livestock.
Sams said her livestock is surrounded by fences with barbed wire. She thinks the dogs must have burrowed under the fence to gain access to the goats.
She said she’s concerned the dogs might return and attack her cows, horses or even the children at Jeffersonville Elementary School across the street.
John Faulk said he raised goats on property across Bullard Road from Sams’ land about three years ago until they were attacked twice. Thirty of his goats were killed.
Then Charlie Chapman said he tried to raise goats on the same property. He lost about 50 goats to dogs this summer.
“I’d see seven or eight dogs at a time,” he said.
Neither man keeps goats on the property any more.
About 200 rams were killed in 2007 and 2008 in enclosures about five miles away on Ga. 80, said Roger Reuter.
Reuter said he used to raise exotic rams to sell to hunting preserves in Florida.
He started seeing problems in 2006 when he noticed one ram dead along the fence line. Within six days, about 100 rams were dead.
At some point during the 2006 attacks, Reuter said he saw three dogs circling a ram.
He said the dogs were clean. One smelled like shampoo, but none were wearing collars.
“They’re doing it for sport,” Reuter said, noting that the dogs didn’t eat any of the animals.
In 2007 the dogs attacked again and killed 98 rams in four days, some worth $500 apiece.
While picking up some of the carcasses, Reuter said he saw a German shepherd and a chow chasing more rams.
After losing $35,000, Reuter said he no longer raises the exotic animals.
Sams, the owner of the goats killed this week, said she plans to pressure local officials and state legislators for a new law requiring dog owners to register their pets.
She said she hasn’t decided whether she’ll buy more goats. She had been raising the animals and selling them for extra retirement income.
Chapman said having an animal control department might help.
Reuter said he doesn’t think the county should spend money to fix the problem.
“Why do I want to spend $30,000 or more to take care of a problem that can be taken care of with less money,” he said.
Instead, he suggested deputies be given permission to shoot uncollared, unleashed dogs that could be creating a nuisance.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.