PINE RIDGE | Oglala Sioux tribal officials rounded up and killed "a horse-trailer full" of dogs Thursday on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation following the Tuesday death of an 8-year-old girl reportedly killed by a pack of roaming dogs.
Some residents were upset by what they described as unnecessary dog seizures and brutal tactics, but a tribal police official denied those accusations.
Vivian Locust, an elderly resident who lives on the southern edge of Pine Ridge, tearfully told of officials who showed up unannounced at her house and seized one of her dogs, a bloodhound-pit bull mix named Harvey. She said officials shot one of her nephew's dogs as he watched.
"The idiots shot him without caring," she said.
Locust's husband of 57 years, Joe, described the dog roundup activities as "Gestapo tactics."
The Locusts live at the bottom of the hill where Jayla Rodriguez, a third-grader at the Red Cloud Indian School, was killed late Tuesday afternoon reportedly by a pack of dogs while she was sledding. Jayla lived at the top of the hill in a trailer house with her family, Locust said.
Locust did not know Jayla, whom she described as "that beautiful little girl," but had seen her playing outside occasionally. Nobody answered the door at the family's trailer Thursday.
Locust said her dogs had nothing to do with Jayla's death. Locust and another resident of the area said they often see a pack of stray dogs in the wooded draws behind the home of Jayla's family.
John Mousseau, deputy chief of police for the tribe, said no dogs were shot on-site during the roundup. He said the tribal Housing Authority hired a contractor to collect stray dogs, destroy them and dump their carcasses at one of the tribal landfills. He said people involved with the roundup told him they filled a horse trailer.
Mousseau declined to identify the landfill and refused a request to allow journalists to view the carcasses. A tribal housing official referred all questions to Tribal President Bryan Brewer, who issued a written statement about the girl's death.
"I am extremely disturbed by this tragic incident and I want the public to know that all applicable tribal ordinances and laws pertaining to this matter will be strictly enforced," Brewer's statement said, in part. The statement, dated Wednesday, also said tribal officials met Wednesday and planned to meet again Thursday morning to discuss the matter and chart a course of action.
Mousseau said the dog roundup will continue today and could be expanded to other towns on the reservation in the coming weeks.
The tribe is operating under the authority of a tribal law that reads: "Any and all stray unlicensed animals not displaying a current rabies tag that pose a threat to the health and safety of persons residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation will be destroyed immediately." An additional tribal law, named "Braedon's Law" for a boy who was attacked by a dog, outlaws pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and "any other vicious dog or animal that attacks, bites or attempts to bite a person, or chases a person."
Mousseau said all stray dogs are being viewed as potential threats to public safety since it's unknown which pack of dogs attacked Jayla.
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Mousseau declined to release further details of her death and said the investigation is being handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI spokesman Kyle Loven declined to release information Thursday and said only that the FBI is "trying to determine what exactly occurred here."
Mousseau said: "From all the evidence I've seen, it's a dog attack."
Whatever the ultimate findings of the investigation, the problem of stray dogs on Pine Ridge is obvious. West of Pine Ridge on Thursday morning, a group of dogs was feasting on a horse carcass alongside the highway, across from a dead dog on the other side of the road. A house nearby is the home of Marty Goings, who said some of the dogs are his and some are strays.
Goings looked on as passing motorists honked their horns to scare the dogs out of traffic.
"I hear that all day long," he said.
Goings said the dog problem in the area is severe, especially in the town of Pine Ridge.
"If you go into Pine Ridge at nighttime, after 1 a.m., you don't want to walk around," he said. "They're all over the place."
Some walk along the roadsides, and one was lying on the ground Thursday on the lawn of the tribal headquarters. Many houses have "Beware of dog" signs.
Adrian Trueblood, who lives in a Pine Ridge housing development, locked up his dogs Thursday when he heard about the roundup of stray dogs. His neighborhood is full of dogs, he said, but a nearby neighborhood is filled with more and meaner dogs.
"I don't walk down those streets without a stick," he said.
Mousseau and others said dog owners must take better care of their dogs and stop abandoning them or letting them run without restriction. He'd also like the tribe to expand its Animal Control Office, which he said has one full-time employee.
Beyond that and the immediate efforts to round up stray dogs, Mousseau said he does not know what long-term efforts should be undertaken to get the stray dog problem under control.
"There are no easy answers," he said.