'Acted within agency policy': Abandoned dogs shot, killed by Apache County Sheriff's deputy

Note: This story reports on distressing content. Discretion is advised.

What began as a welfare call to the Apache County Sheriff's Office to check on several emaciated, dehydrated and abandoned dogs on a property in Adamana, an area outside of Holbrook, soon became the site of the mass killing.

Molly K. Ottman is the executive editor of the Mountain Daily Star and first reported on the story after getting the officer's body cam video.

Deputy Toadecheenie entered onto an abandoned property, feeding the pups one last time, and then opening fire on seven dogs through a fence.

While some fell dead quickly, others had to be shot repeatedly while they yelped and shrieked in pain.

Teresa Scumann with Northern Arizona Animal Search and Rescue says the deputy initially called her hoping she could take the puppies, but she had no room. 

Had she known what the sheriff's office would resort to, including reportedly dumping the bodies of the seven dogs onto a highway, she says she would have intervened.

"They say they can't afford to do animal services, and I'm sorry, I don't believe that," she said.

Schumann is calling for an investigation into how Sheriff Joseph Dedman Jr. is running his office and dealing with the area's animal hoarding crisis. 

She wants to know why the original owners of the dogs were never cited and why deputies are allowed to euthanize unwanted dogs.

Meanwhile, residents who call deputies for help in dealing with roaming packs of dozens of abandoned dogs say the pups are so hungry they've become aggressive.

But, they say shooting dogs dead is not the answer.

The Apache County Sheriff's Office says there is no animal control department for the area and approval for that would have to come from the board of supervisors.

FOX 10 reached out to the Apache County Sheriff's Office for a statement on June 9.

The sheriff's office released a lengthy statement, ultimately saying the deputy acted within the agency's policy and under the order of his immediate supervisor.

The full statement –  

"The Deputy involved acted in a professional and most humane manner given the circumstances. He exhausted all other alternatives available to him at the time and acted under the approval of his immediate supervisor.

The incident was reviewed by ACSO Command Staff, and the Deputy was found to have acted within agency policy.

Apache County is a large county covering over 11,000 square miles, with only a handful of deputies to provide law enforcement and a variety of other services to the citizens of Apache County and the State of Arizona. The deputies are trained to act on their own, make split second life or death decisions and handle any situation they are confronted with in a professional manner within the law.

Apache County does not have an animal care and control department. In the unincorporated areas that responsibility is left up to the deputies and actions taken vary and are considered on a case-by-case basis. We do not have the infrastructure or budget to support such a department.

Approval for such a department would be made by the Board of Supervisors. We have had private agencies like the Arizona Humane Society offer to assist on cases in the past, but not on a consistent basis, mainly due to the remote response and availability of local resources."