At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, an Austin police officer was forced to shoot and kill a pit bull inside the Petco store near Lakeline Mall in north Austin, Texas, when the pit bull attacked a tiny maltese for the second time.
According to the report, a 16-year-old girl came to the store with a pit bull that weighed about 90 pounds. The maltese was with its owner, an elderly woman. The pit bull and the maltese were both on leash and inside the store when they started barking at each other, so the owners pulled them apart. However, the pit bull soon broke away from the young owner and ran through the store dragging its leash until it found the maltese. The pit bull charged the tiny dog, grabbed it in its mouth and shook it with the apparent intent to kill it.
Shoppers and the owners were unable to get the pit bull to release the dog. Officer Leslie Lyons was at the back of the store. She heard the cries of the maltese and the commotion of those trying unsuccessfully to free it, so she ran to the front where the mauling was taking place. Lyons was in full uniform at the time, working an off-duty, Austin Police Department-approved security shift at the store, says Assistant Police Chief Stephen Deaton.
The officer assessed the severity of the situation, cleared the area of all humans for safety and — with the Maltese still being crushed and shaken violently in the other dog's jaws — she shot the pit bull once and wounded it in order to get it to drop the small dog.
The pit bull did release the maltese briefly, but then immediately went after it again, according to Deaton. The officer then had no other option, and in order to save the Maltese, she shot the attacking dog a second time and killed it.
"She's upset," Deaton said, spokesman for the Austin Police Department. "She's an animal lover who owns dogs herself. This is the last thing she wanted to do on this overtime assignment.”
The maltese was rushed to a nearby emergency veterinary hospital to be treated. Although it was alive the day after the incident, there was no report on the severity of the mauling and no indication of whether it will survive.
Deaton said the situation will be investigated, but it does not appear the officer violated any policies by shooting the dog.
“You've got to understand, it's not about breeds," Deaton said. "The maltese has every bit as much of a right to live and not be injured as the pit bull does."
Although some critics commented that the officer could have used a Taser on the pit bull, Deaton said it appeared that under these circumstances, the choice of a firearm was appropriate.
Studies have shown that Tasers, which are merely high-voltage stun guns, subdue a human suspect about 70 percent of the time on the first use and vary in effectiveness based on numerous factors. One is resistance, which could be expected to be very high in an attacking dog. Tasers are designed to “subdue,” and the effect is widely variable. Their effectiveness on animals is unpredictable.
The officer in this case evaluated the situation and took the action she felt was the only option to save the life of the little maltese who was in imminent peril.