By Jennifer Dobner
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Sheriff's deputies in Utah said on Wednesday they could not help a woman whose dog was injured in a tussle with a mountain goat because their policy is to rescue only humans, adding the pet was off its leash and attacked the wild animal.
The altercation took place high on the slopes of the 11,752-foot (3,582-meter) Mount Timpanogos, 55 miles (88.5 km) south of Salt Lake City, late on Sunday as the 26-year-old woman hiked with her dog.
The Utah County Sheriff's Office said they received a call from the woman's mother asking for a search and rescue team to go to her aid because she could not get her injured 55-pound (25-kg) dog down off the mountain on her own.
The sheriff's office declined to help, citing a policy which states the teams can only rescue injured people, not animals.
"It's a tough call, but we have to draw a line somewhere," said Utah County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Spencer Cannon.
He said the woman has since told police she was able to coax the dog down off the mountain and that her pet is recovering.
Cannon said the hike to the woman's location would have taken at least two hours, and that a rescue would have required a crew of up to 15 members, depending the dog's injuries.
"Imagine the outrage if we didn't have the resources to rescue a child."
He said that within two hours of the woman's call, deputies received an alert about a family-of-four stranded in a disabled boat on a nearby lake.
Had the dog owner also been injured, the sheriff's office would have come to her rescue and brought both her and her pet to safety, the lieutenant said.
Cannon said the woman told deputies that the dog was off its leash and had begun to chase the horned goat.
It is a misdemeanor under local law to "attack, chase or worry" a wild animal, Cannon said, adding that the county has no plans to file charges against the dog owner at this time.
(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)