11/29/09 — Fremont chief defends Thursday dog shooting

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Fremont chief defends Thursday dog shooting

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 29, 2009 1:50 AM

Fremont Police Chief Ron Rawlings is defending his department this weekend after an alleged dangerous dog was shot and killed by the town's K-9 officer.

According to the police report, Hope Troutman of West South Street, was walking her dog, a Chihuahua named Buster, with her 15-year-old stepson and 17- and 18-year-old daughters at about 1:45 p.m. after their Thanksgiving dinner when they were allegedly approached by two dogs near the corner of Wayne and Pine streets.

According to Rawlings, Ms. Troutman told police that the first, a pitbull/Doberman-pinscher mix,"charged" Buster, grabbed him in its mouth and "shook him violently."

It was at that point that the officer, Lawrence Pfifer, who Rawlings said was nearby and witnessed the attack, came to try to separate the animals. Also, while trying to separate the animals, the 15-year-old boy was bit on the hand -- by the first dog, Ms. Troutman said.

The group was then "approached aggressively" by the second dog, a collie mix according to the report -- a bulldog mix, according to the dog's owners.

Rawlings said that Pfifer tried to scare both dogs away and succeeded in running off the first. But, he said, the second turned toward Pfifer and "approached the officer aggressively."

It was at that point, Rawlings said, that Pfifer shot the dog.

"We hate to take a pet's life, but on the other hand, the dog attacked another pet and a citizen of this town. Our job is to protect our citizens," Rawlings said. "He did exactly as he had to do.

"I'd like to apologize for the loss of their pet, but the real victims are the two girls who witnessed their dog being attacked, the boy who got bit, the dog and also the officer."

However, the dogs' owners, Daniell and Audrey Stanton of West Wayne Street, admit that their dogs were running free, but deny that they acted in an aggressive manner.

"I very much disagree with that," Mrs. Stanton said.

Instead, she said they believe the dogs were just trying to play and that when Ms. Troutman, her dog and her family got nervous and upset, their dogs got upset as well.

The first dog, she said, is a 5-year-old named Tye-bowe. The second, the one that got shot, was a 7-month-old named Diesel.

She admitted, though, that none of her family was outside when the alleged attack began -- explaining that they all had just stepped inside for a moment after spending the early afternoon in the yard -- and that her 7-year-old son had gone back onto the porch just in time to see the end of the confrontation.

However, the Stantons also said that while they believe the entire situation resulted from a "misunderstanding," they understand and accept what happened.

"I don't want an apology. I don't need an apology. The dog is dead and gone now. We'll accept the citations. I just want him (the officer) to explain to my child why he did what he did. We just need to know how and why," Mrs. Stanton said.

She also said that they're upset that the officer used "very excessive force" in discharging his weapon -- a .45-caliber handgun -- in a neighborhood with people around.

In fact, they said that after examining Diesel, which died in their home, the bullet appeared to have gone clean through him.

"Why are you discharging a weapon toward the general vicinity of a child? Why use that much force? Is that the way they're trained?" Stanton asked, wondering why the officer didn't use his mace, his Tazer or his nightstick -- all of which Rawlings said the officer had.

However, Rawlings said while that they don't have a specific policy for dealing with dangerous dogs, he would stand by Pfifer's actions, adding that his officers are well trained in how to use their weapons.

"I will not second guess my officer," he said. "There's no way he would have taken that dog's life unless he had to."

Ms. Troutman also said she believes the officer acted appropriately.

"We were very fortunate he was there. If he had not been there it would have been a whole lot worse," she said.

She added that Buster was being treated for two puncture wounds and bruising on his rear right leg, while they did not seek immediate treatment for her stepson's bite.

Daniell Stanton was charged with dangerous dog unrestrained and dangerous dog attack, both Class I misdemeanors, Rawlings said.

Rawlings also reiterated that any dog over the age of 3 months is considered an adult and is required by town ordinance to be on a leash when outside.

-- Staff Writer Laura Collins contributed to this report.