1. News

No charges for owner of escaped pit bull shot in New Port Richey

Published Oct. 31, 2012

NEW PORT RICHEY — No charges will be filed against the owner of a pit bull that was shot and killed by police after the dog escaped from its home and lunged at an officer, New Port Richey police said Tuesday.

Officer Greg Williams had no choice but to shoot Sky, the 85-pound female pit bull that charged at him Monday near its home at 5324 Luna Vista Drive, police Chief James Steffens said.

"It's an unfortunate thing, but he did what he had to do," Steffens said.

Williams said he met with Sky's owner, 33-year-old Sarah Wagner, who was emotional over the loss of her dog but also understood the officer's decision to open fire. Wagner could not be reached for comment.

Because no one was injured and Wagner showed remorse, she will not face charges, Williams said. The fate of Wagner's other pit bull, which was also involved in the incident Monday, remains to be seen.

On Monday, just before noon, the city's new volunteer Animal Protection Unit received a call from a man who said two pit bulls had tried to attack him. The man said he managed to fight off the dogs with a trash can and escaped.

Williams and the city's volunteer animal control officer, Jeff McReynolds, went to the area and found Sky and Wagner's other pit bull standing over the body of a cat that also lived with the dogs. Police believe one or both dogs mauled the cat and dragged it into a field near the home.

The dogs took off when the officers arrived. Williams and McReynolds found the pit bulls a short time later, and McReynolds tried to restrain one dog with a control stick. The other dog, Sky, charged toward Williams, who shot the dog in the head.

"I feel bad. I'm a dog lover," Williams said. "When you go out to something like this, it's not the outcome you want or expect."

The other dog took off. It's still unclear how the pit bulls got out of their home, but Williams believes one of the dogs may have jumped on a push-down handle on the front door, which was open when officers arrived.

Several hours after the shooting, Wagner called Williams and said her other dog had returned. Williams said the owner is deciding whether to surrender the dog to police.

Police cannot seize the dog because neither officer saw which dog killed the cat or attacked the pedestrian, Williams said. But if Wagner decides to keep the dog, animal protection will make sure the dog is licensed, has tags and is properly vaccinated, he said.