NEW PORT RICHEY — A Pasco County man accused of beating his Rottweiler to death with his fists told a jury Thursday that he hit the dog only twice, and never meant to kill him.
As for the body of the animal, he said, he has no idea where it is.
Brian Perry, 48, was arrested and charged with animal cruelty on May 27. According to court documents, Perry had recently rescued 4-year-old Gipper, who weighed about 75 pounds. He was with the dog at his home on Manatee Point Drive in New Port Richey when Gipper ran away from him and into a nearby river. He got the dog, but next Gipper ran toward a neighbor's house.
That neighbor testified how Gipper barked at two of his own dogs, a chihuahua and an Australian shepherd mix, in a screened-in enclosure.
"Gipper was standing there barking at my dogs," Lance Kirkland, 16, said. "He was not growling and not trying to get in."
Kirkland said he didn't go outside because he didn't think his dogs were in any danger.
"He was yelling at the dog. Then eventually he started punching it on top of the head," Kirkland said of Perry. "He looked angry. He hit him pretty hard. At least 10 times."
Kirkland went to get his mother, who also testified she saw Perry punch the dog. Gipper walked a few feet and then fell over, she said. Perry told her, "I think I killed my dog," according to her testimony.
"That man lost his temper," assistant state attorney Korey Milo said in his opening statement. "He lost his composure, and he lost his humanity."
Perry testified he was just trying to keep Gipper from attacking Kirkland's dogs.
"I was very concerned about those two dogs," he said. "They were not afraid of him at all."
He said when he first got Gipper, the dog bonded to him "like my shadow." But then, he said, Gipper became aggressive toward other animals and hard to control on a leash, even pulling Perry off his feet a few times.
The situation with the other dogs, he testified, felt critical. He didn't feel like Gipper would attack him, he said, but he didn't want to pick his dog up because he thought he might bite him by accident.
After Gipper died, Perry sat with him and cried, he said. Then he called friends to come and pick the dog up.
He declined to tell prosecutors what happened to the dog because he promised his friends he wouldn't, he said.
A New Port Richey police officer came and questioned him the next day, and he admitted to hitting the dog twice. She returned to arrest him and he said he hit the dog only once, according to a police report.
Perry's lawyer said the evidence was clear: He was saving the other dogs.
"Mr. Perry acted out of necessity," attorney Andrew Stine said. "Necessity for others, and that action of necessity was done during an emergency situation."
Lawyers on both sides will next give closing arguments in the case, and it's expected to go to a jury today.