The owner of a Pit Bull that attacked and severely wounded St. Ignatius Police Chief Jeffrey Ferguson pled guilty last week to charges of having two unlicensed dogs and one dog at large. However, he withdrew a guilty plea for owning a vicious dog when he learned it could mean the Pit Bull would be euthanized.
If convicted of the charge, Jeremy Samsel, the dog’s owner, could face up to $600 in fines and six months in jail.
Samsel entered the pleas in municipal court just days after Chief Ferguson was mauled by the Pit Bull when he responded to a frantic call from a resident who said a neighbor’s Pit Bull had entered their yard and was killing their dog. When Ferguson and a sheriff’s deputy arrived, they found the Pit Bull inside the yard and the caller visibly shaken.
When Chief Ferguson tried to get the Pit Bull into its owner’s yard, it took off running, reports the Valley Journal. Ferguson caught and leashed the dog and said it seemed friendly. He told the deputy he didn’t need back up.
Just moments later Ferguson said he was walking with the dog when it suddenly stopped and viciously attacked his leg and brought him down to the ground.
"I noticed it was starting to lunge forward at my face area, so I put my arm up and it started chewing on my arm," said the Chief.
Ferguson managed to use his Taser on the dog because he didn’t want to fire gunshots in the densely populated area, the Valley Journal reports.
The sheriff’s deputy returned to aid Ferguson and called for emergency medical assistance. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital where he was treated but some of the dog bite wounds were so deep and severe that doctors could not stitch them for fear of infection. The police chief may need surgery on his arm after the dog bit and tore ligaments in his forearm.
Ferguson wants the dog to be euthanized.
“What if it hadn’t been me? What if it was a little kid?” he asked.
But, the dog's owner said his pet is normally very friendly, and was likely only acting out of fear.
"He's a lover for the most part," Samsel told ABC News.
Samsel has raised his pure bred pit bull, Jackson, for nearly five years, he said. He was at work on Thursday when the incident happened.
A judge will decide the fate of the animal, which was under a mandatory 10-day rabies quarantine last week.
Ferguson said the quarantine had expired on Monday but there is a 10-day appeal process before the judge can order euthanasia. The owner has hired an attorney.
The chief said that officers responded to another vicious dog call for a separate dog belonging to the same owner just days after the attack. That call allegedly came in at the same time the owner, trying to plead his case, was being interviewed by a TV news crew, Ferguson said.