A Graniteville woman says an Aiken County Sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot her dog in her driveway Monday was “trigger happy” and killed the animal without facing any real threat.
According to a sheriff’s office incident report, Deputy C. Miller found the 2-year-old pit bull named Mya near Lalonda Allen’s home on Aiken Road around 2:30 p.m. after being flagged down by a man who said he was attacked by a dog. Two women also told Miller they helped chase the dog away from the man, according to the report.
Miller stated that he called Animal Control for backup and had to wait in his patrol car because the dog was barking and charging at the car. The dog then went into a yard but wandered back into the street when an animal control officer arrived, according to the report.
Allen said at this point she heard the commotion from inside as she was getting dressed and opened the front door to find the officers cornering Mya in the driveway.
Allen said the officer asked if she was the owner and she shouted back that she was.
“Then he yelled at me to get back in the house, just like that,” Allen said. “He didn’t even give me a chance to call her into the yard or nothing.”
Miller reported the dog “charged” the animal control officer several times as he attempted to catch her, so he shot the dog once in the shoulder with his Glock 22 pistol.
When she tried get up, Miller fired a second shot to her head, according to the report.
Leroy Brown, 24, said he was walking from the Blue Top Grill a half-block away when he saw the deputy and animal control officer cornering the dog.
Brown said the dog did not appear to be vicious or act like she was about to attack.
“She was just barking because they were around her yard,” Brown said. “The (animal control officer) just backed up and made no effort to catch her.”
Allen said her 45-pound Mya had never attacked anybody and was well-known in the neighborhood.
She didn’t worry when the dog brushed up against her 1-year-old grandson or played with him on the floor. She was loved by the neighbors and often got four meals a day from people dropping food over the fence.
On Tuesday, Mya’s blood still stained the gravel street in front of Allen’s driveway.
“She wasn’t aggressive at all, she was never taught that,” Allen said. “They just figure because it’s a pit bull that they can shoot her. But it’s not fair. She was like family.”
Aiken County Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Eric Abdullah said the department launched an investigation into the incident after receiving a complaint.
As of Tuesday, Miller was still on active duty pending the investigation, Abdullah said.
Brown said he is concerned about a deputy using his gun so freely in a neighborhood where children play in the front yards and cars are constantly driving through.
From observing the incident, Brown also said he didn’t think the dog was acting threatening enough to be shot and that the officer overreacted, taking a pet from a family.
“Here this woman saw her dog brutally murdered, and she didn’t even get that chance to coax her into her house,” Brown said. “It was at a time when children were getting out of school. What if one of those two bullets ricocheted and killed somebody? Not only did the dog die, but we very easily could have lost a person.”
While pit bulls have developed a reputation as aggressive, dangerous dogs over the last few decades, Katherine Miller of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said behavior can not be generalized in any breed.
The habit for media outlets to report pit bull attacks and the presence of the dogs in sport fighting has molded a perception that they are dangerous animals. However, the Centers for Disease Control has reported breed-specific ordinances in response to attacks are impractical.
While pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers make up the majority of fatal attacks in the U.S., they also far outnumber many other breeds in population, according to CDC data. Therefore, other breeds may bite at higher rates in proportion to their numbers.
Miller, ASPCA director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Research, said it helps for police departments to get better trained on how to identify canine body language and actual signs of aggression to avoid unnecessary actions.
“There are so many factors associated with aggression in dogs and breed is not the predominant factor,” she said.