Sheriff's deputy cleared in dog's shooting
A deputy who shot a dog that bit him while investigating a stolen truck in Chino Valley has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, said Dwight D'Evelyn spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.
But the dog's owner, Clay Messina, said the shooting of Doc, a 6-year-old, 94-pound Redbone Coonhound search dog who worked with the Illinois-Wisconsin Search & Rescue Dogs in McHenry County, Ill., "was completely uncalled for as far as I am concerned."
At 4:15 p.m. on July 8, a deputy was investigating a report of a stolen truck at a home in the 400 block of North Yuma, D'Evelyn said.
"The deputy saw two dogs inside a fenced front yard, so he rattled the gate to see what their response would be. They did not seem aggressive so he drove into the yard and closed to gate to keep the dogs from escaping," D'Evelyn said.
As the deputy approached the home, one dog went around to the back of the home, while Doc came up from behind the deputy and bit his right arm, according to a sheriff's office report.
The deputy got Doc off him, then tried to kick the dog away, but Doc did not back off so the deputy fired a shot into the ground in front of Doc, according to the sheriff's office report.
When Doc came after the deputy again, he fired twice, hitting the dog in the front left leg and the right shoulder, D'Evelyn said.
Messina said he was letting his other dog in the home when he heard shots fired.
"The deputy told me the dog attacked him," Clay said. "I find that hard to believe. Doc has never been aggressive to anyone."
The deputy had a bite mark on the underside of his right forearm with torn skin, but no puncture marks, according to the Sheriff's Office report.
"The deputy did not require medical treatment. He was examined at the scene," D'Evelyn said.
Clay's mother, Geri Messina, was Doc's handler for four years with Illinois-Wisconsin Search & Rescue Dogs. Geri said Doc is certified in trailing, or following a scent, and one of the requirements of their unit was that dogs be nonaggressive to both other dogs and people.
Geri told investigators that police officers had crated and antagonized Doc at one point back in Illinois and that Doc hadn't been the same since that time, according to a sheriff's office report.
"Someone said he had a problem with uniformed officers, but it would be difficult if he did when he went out on searches with a half dozen police officers around," Clay said.
A veterinarian treated Doc at the scene, then took him to Circle L Animal Hospital in Chino Valley, where they removed his left front leg, Geri said.
"Doc is back home and doing well. Yesterday, Doc was standing and he can walk, but not very far," Geri said.
Geri and Clay thanked the Circle L doctors for their care of Doc.
Clay said there will be a fundraiser to help pay for Doc's $3,000 veterinarian bill on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Drunken Lass in Prescott.
Clay said he thinks the deputy should have tried something else instead of shooting Doc.
"The deputy had pepper spray, mace, a taser, a siren, a horn, my phone number in his car," Clay said. "He could have tried any other thing except shooting my dog."
Pepper spray can aggravate aggressive behavior in some dogs and have no effect on others, and using a taser on a small target like a dog can put a deputy in danger if the deputy misses, D'Evelyn said.
"The issue here is that the deputy wants to overcome an attack from an animal, not meet it," D'Evelyn said. "Once the deputy is attacked or bitten, the deputy may not be able to respond."
As for the allegations of a stolen truck at the property, Clay said he was fixing a friend's truck, and told a woman she could pick it up.
"Then a few weeks went by and she reports it stolen," Clay said.
D'Evelyn said Clay took possession of a friend's truck after the friend was arrested, and the owner tried to get it back, but initially did not cooperate.
The truck has since been returned to its owner, D'Evelyn said.
"It's now a civil matter between the parties," D'Evelyn said. "There are no current charges being filed."