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Southern Utah woman charged with multiple counts of animal abuse after dog bites teen girl

HILDALE, Washington County — A woman whose two dogs were shot by police after they escaped from her property and bit a teenage girl is facing allegations of animal cruelty after police say they found multiple malnourished dogs in her yard.

Karen Harris, 48, of Hildale, was charged Monday in Utah’s 5th District Court with two counts of cruelty to an animal, a third-degree felony, and nine additional counts of cruelty to an animal and allowing a vicious animal to go at large, class B misdemeanors.

On Dec. 4, two dogs escaped from Harris’ property “and one had attacked and bitten a 16-year-old girl. Law enforcement observed the girl’s leg and saw a bite mark which was bleeding,” according to charging documents.

When officers found the dogs, the animals charged at the officers who “were forced to shoot the dogs multiple times, killing one of them, in order to protect themselves,” the charges state.

The second dog was able to flee the area but later died.

Based on prior incidents, police identified Harris as the owner of the dogs. At her property, police located a hole in the fence where the dogs were able to escape.

They also found multiple other dogs, only one of which had access to food and water, the charge state.

“All of the dogs that officers observed were severely malnourished and dehydrated. Two of the dogs were dead and officers observed that they were severely emaciated and in poor health when they had died. It appeared to officers that the dogs died due to starvation, dehydration, and/or malnourishment,” according to court documents.

One dog was found tied to a trailer with no shelter; two dogs were found inside a horse trailer covered with feces; and three more dogs were found in a fifth-wheel trailer with the floor also in deplorable conditions, the charges allege.

Neighbors told law enforcers they had not seen anyone on the property for several days to take care of the dogs.

Police say four of the dogs were taken to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for medical treatment.

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