The U.S. Forest Service has confirmed one of its police officers shot a dog Tuesday morning in the parking lot outside the Rainbow Gathering on the Malheur National Forest.
Word of the incident began to spread late Tuesday on social media, sparking outrage among participants at the unauthorized gathering.
The dog, a pit bull mix, was taken to an animal hospital in Canyon City where it was euthanized.
According to a statement released by the Forest Service, the officer — who was not identified — was conducting a routine daily count of cars in order to estimate the number of people camping at Flagtail Meadow, where this year’s gathering is being held.
As the officer turned the corner, he saw two dogs sitting about 15 feet away. The dogs were not leashed, which is required by law and is also specified in the event operating plan. No other people were present in the area.
The officer did not have his recording device turned on. But the Forest Service claims one of the dogs got up and charged the officer, who drew his firearm and shot the animal once.
After shooting the dog, the Forest Service says the owners and other participants at the gathering began to crowd and yell at the officer. Officers took the dog to Canyon City with the owner’s permission. The dog’s remains were returned to the owners.
To date, there have been at least 15 warnings and six citations issued for dog-related violations at the Rainbow Gathering. Local and federal agencies are reminding visitors to keep their dogs on leashes for public and animal safety.
Stephen Baker, a spokesman for the Forest Service, said the incident remains under investigation and more details will be released when they are available.