Businessman Irvin Warren put four sheep in a fenced field in 2005, when he bought the historic Barrington House mansion and converted it to a bed and breakfast.
The sheep initially sparked controversy because they violated a local ordinance that prohibits livestock within the city limits. Although the case remains tied up in the courts, the sheep have become four-legged celebrities in Dunn, with residents and tourists viewing them as local mascots.
"Strangers driving by will stop their cars and get out and look at them," said John Belote, a cook at Barrington House. "They've been here four years now, and nothing like this has ever happened."
On Saturday morning, police said, three pit bulls went into the pasture, which is surrounded by a split-rail fence and an electric wire, and attacked the four sheep. One was slaughtered in the field.
"The other sheep were running for their lives. The dogs were basically running at their legs and throats," Belote said.
Two sheep made it two blocks before the dogs overtook them. The third sheep escaped without injury.
Police said the dogs had no collars, and there was no identification of their owners.
"In the wintertime, we always have an influx of stray dogs coming into town," Dunn Police Chief B.P. Jones said.
Two of the dogs were captured, and a trap has been set for the third, police said. They said the dogs will be put down because they're considered vicious animals.
Warren, who was in Florida Wednesday, said people are pleading with him to replace the sheep. He owns other sheep at Shady Brook Stables nearby, but he said he doesn't want to move any until he's certain that the danger has passed.
The remaining sheep at Barrington House, named Caramel, is being kept in a stall for the time being for its safety.
"There's still one dog on the loose," Belote said.