NEW PORT RICHEY — A New Port Richey police officer shot and killed a charging pit bull Monday after responding to a 911 call involving the same dog attacking a pedestrian.
The officer, whose name was not released, had no choice but to shoot the pit bull, New Port Richey police Chief James Steffens said. "He took the only action he could," said Steffens, adding that the dog came within a few feet of the officer. "It's unfortunate, but the dog was extremely aggressive and he had to do his duty."
The shooting was a difficult test for the city's fledgling volunteer animal protection unit, which launched Oct. 1 after New Port Richey took over its animal control services from Pasco County, Steffens said.
For weeks now, volunteers have responded to animal control calls and have picked up dogs for various reasons without incident, but Monday was a different story.
Around noon, dispatch received a 911 call involving two aggressive dogs loose in the area of Luna Vista Drive. The Police Department sent a civilian animal protection volunteer and a police officer, Steffens said.
When the volunteer and the officer arrived, two pit bulls — a black female and white male — were roaming the area. The female dog immediately charged the officer, who backed up numerous times before opening fire, Steffens said.
"We're still looking for the other dog, which took off running after the shot," Steffens said.
Police later determined the dogs got loose from a home at 5324 Luna Vista Drive, and prior to charging the officer, the dogs had killed a cat in the home and left its mauled body in a field nearby, according to Steffens.
The dogs then charged a pedestrian who fought the dogs off with a trash can.
Steffens said police will interview the dogs' owners, then decide whether to file any criminal charges or animal ordinance violations. "It's an unfortunate incident and we are going to hold the owners accountable," Steffens said. "I'm sympathetic that they lost a family pet, but we have to look at the cause of why they were running loose, and why they were so aggressive."
Steffens added that there were no injuries to the walker or the responders, and his new unit handled a difficult situation with professionalism. "It shows how dangerous the job can be. And it also shows that we have taken great measures to ensure the safety of our volunteers and our officers," he said.