Missouri deputy quits after killing pet Chihuahua

Sunday, April 3, 2011 | 3:39 p.m. CDT

MARBLE HILL — A southeast Missouri sheriff plans to use a deadly showdown between a deputy and a growling dog as a training opportunity for his remaining officers.

There are other ways of fending off a snarling Chihuahua, Bollinger County Sheriff Leo McElrath says, than repeatedly shooting it.

"When I found out the dog that was shot was a Chihuahua, I really was upset," McElrath told KFVS-TV.

The deputy, Kelly Barks, resigned last month after she was placed on administrative leave pending results of an internal investigation of the February incident that began with a domestic violence call.

McElrath said Barks arrested a man at the scene and then got his permission to search the residence. Once inside, she was confronted by the man's three growling dogs.

Believing the Chihuahua had bitten her, Barks shot it and went outside. After realizing she was fine, she went back into the residence where, McElrath said, the dog was still acting aggressively — so she shot it again.

The dog then went into its kennel, and the deputy fired the third and fatal shot.

McElrath wasn't the only one surprised that the victim was a diminutive breed rather than a large dog that a person could perceive as presenting an immediate, life-threatening danger.

"In that kind of instance I would always put a human life ahead of the vicious animal," Colleen Retz, a Marble Hill veterinarian, told the TV station. "But it seemed like there could have been a different course of action that resulted in a different outcome."

McElrath, who has apologized to the dog's owner, said he, too, believes his deputy could have handled the situation different — with pepper spray, a baton or stick, or even a kick.

"If it had been a bigger dog, then I would have thought that would have been the proper procedure, but since it was a Chihuahua, I told (the owner) I was just sick that the whole incident had happened," McElrath said.

McElrath said he had not had problems with the deputy in the past and was surprised by her resignation. He said his department is using the incident to review protocol in similar situations.

A phone number for Kelly Barks could not be found, and she has declined to comment to area media.

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Jeremy Calton April 4, 2011 | 12:39 a.m.

The sheriff apologized to the dog's owner.
All's well that ends well.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble April 4, 2011 | 1:26 a.m.

This sounds like staggering incompetence and complete lack of sound judgment by Barks. Was there some particular urgency to what sounds like a completely under-control situation that required her to immediately re-enter the area where the dog was? It's this kind of deranged garbage that gives law enforcement a bad name to many people. Kudos to all the capable members of the police force who keep the public safety each day - here's hoping Barks never rejoins their ranks.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Wamboldt April 4, 2011 | 9:39 p.m.

SMH at the sheriff. Why the hell would it be proper procedure to shoot a bigger dog? The dog is just doing what a dog is supposed to be doing, so why should the police officer have the right to kill the dog?

In situations like these, the officers should just let the owner put the dogs in the backyard or lock them up in a room so they're not interfering with anything.

The attitude from the leadership within in the police is appalling. It's a shame that the police officers are able to commit crimes like this and not be punished all in the guise of "protecting the people".

(Report Comment)

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