A woman was left brain dead after being attacked by two dogs near Bozeman on Saturday morning.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the attack happened around 8 a.m. Saturday at 5499 Love Lane. Two dogs were involved, one of them a pit bull, he said.

The victim, 65-year-old Melissa Barnes, was initially attacked by the pit bull, Gootkin said, and the second dog followed suit. Barnes was flown to a Billings hospital for treatment and declared brain dead on Sunday, the sheriff said.

Both dogs were euthanized voluntarily by their owners, Gootkin said. The dogs, neither of which had up-to-date vaccinations, were then taken to the Montana Department of Livestock’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman to be tested for rabies.

Gootkin said Barnes was being kept on life support for organ donation pending the results of the rabies tests on the dogs.

The attack happened in Barnes’ yard while she was doing yard work, Gootkin said. The dogs belonged to tenants who lived on her property.

Gootkin said the dogs’ owners were cooperating with investigators. No charges have been filed yet, but Gootkin said his office is working with the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office in its continuing investigation.

The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office is handling the death investigation, Gooktin said.

Dog bites are a common incident the sheriff’s office investigates, Gootkin said. “Almost on a daily basis we’re dealing with dogs,” he said. And, he added, “they’re every type of dog you can imagine.”

However, Gootkin said in his 24 years with the department, this is the first fatal dog attack he has dealt with in the area.

Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.


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