by Ritchie Starnes, News Editor
Sunday, December 22, 2013 —
An Albemarle family returned home Wednesday morning to learn that Animal Control had fatally shot their dog five times.
An animal control officer killed the pit bull with a 12-gauge shotgun after the first officer on the scene spent about one and a half hours chasing the dog around its owners’ Fourth Street residence. After the officer was unable to catch the dog, the animal was killed in its yard.
Witnesses of the events say that animal control went too far and that the killing was not necessary.
“He was chasing him around with a stick in his hand. What’s the dog supposed to do?” said Josh Byrd, who witnessed the event from across the street.
“He could have probably caught him if he had put the stick down.”
Animal control and police describe a different set of circumstances.
Animal Control officer Dean Lambert said the dog exhibited signs of aggression, including growling and lunging toward him as he tried to catch the pit bull with a control pole.
“He was aggressive enough, but not super aggressive toward me. It’s fight or flight just like with humans,” Lambert said.
Because he was unable to catch the dog to ensure public safety, Lambert ordered the pit bull be killed.
“You don’t allow an aggressive animal in a public setting,” Lambert said.
“If they (witnesses) would have walked up to the dog they would have understood,” he added, referring to the dog’s aggressiveness that might not have been visible from witnesses’ vantage point.
Police also say the pit bull showed aggression toward Animal Control, also citing details from the original 911 call.
Communications confirmed that the 8:41 a.m. call reported that the pit bull had earlier chased a pedestrian onto a porch.
Witnesses contend that police as well as animal control officer Charles Hartsell simply looked on as Lambert gave chase to the dog, suggesting efforts to capture the dog were lame. The other officers offered no assistance in corralling the animal, witnesses said.
Nearby witnesses said the dog ran around its property for the duration of Lambert trying to catch him with a pole in his hand.
“We never saw the dog doing anything out of the way,” Charlie Helms said.
“The dog just ran around and around his house.”
Lambert said usually a dog will tire out then retreat to an area that allows for easy capture, but the pit bull never obliged.
He said while other types of trapping are used on strays, they’re not an option for aggressive dogs, especially when their adrenaline is high.
Lambert defended the killing of the dog as necessary in the interest of public safety. He said buckshot was used to prevent the spray of the blast from reaching any nearby bystanders or houses.
“The original shot was a killing shot,” Lambert said.
“The dog was retreating (after the first shot) and we wanted instantaneous death so the dog wouldn’t suffer.”
Witnesses said they were appalled that Animal Control opted to kill the dog, adding that five shots seemed excessive.
“To shoot him five times was overkill,” Byrd said.
Officers carted the dog’s carcass from the scene and then left a note in the front door of the owner’s residence around 10:30 a.m..
Twenty minutes later Yadira Carbajal arrived home to learn her family’s dog, Chato, was killed.
“I don’t think they had to shoot,” she said.
“They could have waited.”
Lambert said Carbajal called Animal Control and admitted that the dog had become loose from his clasped chain in the yard before she left home earlier in the morning.
Had she secured the dog before leaving, the ordeal could have been avoided, Lambert said.
Byrd suggested the dog was likely killed as much for its breed’s perceived reputation for meanness.
The dog’s nature was anything but mean, Carbajal said.
“He was sweet. He loved to play with my children,” she said with tears filling her eyes as she picked up Chato’s water dish near the blood stained area where the dog was killed.
Call Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.