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.