Friday, July 15, 2011

Deputy cleared for shooting dog that attacked K-9

By Cindy Swirko, The Gainesville Sun

An Alachua County sheriff’s deputy who shot a dog that was attacking his police dog was cleared of any wrongdoing following an internal investigation made public Friday.
Deputy Richard Howell was justified in shooting a pit bull terrier named Scrappy when Scrappy attacked his police dog, Zero, while deputies were on private property searching for a suspect, sheriff’s officials determined.
The incident happened April 24 at the home of Robert and Teresa Bautochka, of 4003 SW 162 St. Deputies were trying to find Tracy Annette Kennedy, of Old Town, who had reportedly stolen her ex-boyfriend’s pickup.
Zero was being used to track Kennedy, who had gone onto the Bautochka’s property. Scrappy and another family dog were outside, and Scrappy attacked Zero. Deputies interviewed for the internal investigation said they kicked Scrappy and tried to pull him off Zero, who was whimpering and whining.
When nothing else worked, Howell fired a shot into Scrappy’s back. He died on the way to an emergency veterinary office.
The Bautochkas said Scrappy always got along well with other dogs, including the family’s Labrador retriever and Chihuahua.
Robert Bautochka told The Sun in April the shooting was “completely irresponsible. Come on. This was a dogfight — you don't shoot first in a dogfight. Why didn't they pepper spray or Taser him?”
Howell told investigators he was fearful that Zero, who was pinned to the ground by Scrappy’s clamp on his neck, would be killed.
Howell was quoted in the report as saying Scrappy’s bite was causing Zero “pain and possibly traumatic injury if I allowed it to continue … and I didn’t want to risk leaving him on that bite any longer than I had to.”
Investigators recommended exoneration of Howell. The exoneration was upheld by top staff at the Sheriff’s Office.

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