Click photo to enlarge
Ellen Barkley of Brentwood holds her foster dog Nollie as she pets Zadie in the family kitchen with her daughter Willow in Brentwood, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. On Saturday, two of Barkley's larger dogs, Luke and Jager, a German shepherd and Rottweiler got out of the yard through some fence boards that were loosened by a stray pit bull, who had gotten into her back neighbor s yard through his side fence and later broke into her yard. The dogs ended up about 4 miles away where a Brentwood man killed them with a shovel after he said they were killing his chickens and turkeys. Barkley, who also has cats and two cockatiels, said the larger dogs used to play with the smaller dogs, who seem lost now. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

BRENTWOOD -- A Brentwood woman whose two dogs were reportedly beaten to death with a shovel wants to change the law that protects their killer.

The way in which Ellen Barkley's Rottweiler and German shepherd died Saturday after escaping from her backyard has horrified hundreds of animal lovers and prompted an online petition to amend a state law that allows someone to kill another person's dogs if they threaten his farm animals.

Barkley was out of town Saturday when the dogs she'd been fostering since last year escaped through her fence.

One of her daughters who had been caring for the animals called Barkley on Saturday morning to alert her, and with the help of volunteers who came from as far as Tracy and San Jose, they began passing out dozens of fliers and knocking on doors.

Luke and Jager   (Courtesy of Ellen Barkley)
Luke and Jager (Courtesy of Ellen Barkley)

The search eventually led them late Sunday morning to a house on Creek Road, where Brentwood police and Contra Costa animal control officers were summoned.

While the two agencies were at the scene, the 32-year-old man at the center of the controversy arrived and told them he'd killed the dogs after finding them in a chicken coop covered in blood, said Rick Golphin, deputy director of Contra Costa County Animal Services.

When he tried to get them out of the enclosure, he said the dogs charged him, so he used a shovel to stop them, Golphin said.

Although the man had disposed of both the chickens and the dogs by the time authorities arrived, Golphin said there's evidence supporting his account.


Advertisement

Moreover, based on the information his agency has right now, the individual didn't violate animal cruelty laws, he said.

"The allegations and statements said the (dogs) were killed with a shovel," Golphin said. "That alone is not enough. If you are on a farm property and animals approach livestock or poultry, the law allows for them to be killed.

"It's just unfortunate when two beautiful animals are killed, not necessarily in an illegal way but certainly in a tragic way."

To prove cruelty would require evidence that the dogs suffered "unduly," Golphin said.

And any clues that the dogs' bodies might have offered along those lines disappeared when the man reportedly placed them in a hole he'd dug on his employer's property, doused the remains with gasoline and burned them, he said.

Although the case remains open, the investigation is at a dead end until additional evidence comes to light, Golphin said.

Brentwood Sgt. Walter O'Grodnick agreed.

"Absent independent witnesses, it becomes a he-said, they-said," Grodnick said.

For her part, Barkley wants to challenge the status quo.

"All I'm trying to do is change the law," she said of the petition, which can be found at http://chn.ge/16eLjxx.

"There has to be a process before someone can just kill somebody's dog," she said.

Efforts to reach the man who killed the animals were unsuccessful.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141 or rcoetsee@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee. Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4780 or rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow him at Twitter.com/RickHurd.