BELTON, SC (WSPA) – Could the death of a dog at the hands of a police officer been avoided?
The animal was shot four times by a Belton Police Department officer who said it chased or tried to bite six people, including him.
The officer said the dog ran toward him and was jumping at him when he pulled the trigger.
“You evaluate the situation and you make a decision on the best action to ensure the safety of the public,” Belton Police Chief Tommy Clamp said.
Clamp said he sticks by his officer who did what he had to do in the moment.
“I hate it. I hate that it happened,” Clamp said. “But, unfortunately that’s part of law enforcement’s job is to protect the public.”
We spoke with the dog’s owner and a woman who said the dog charged her, and both say they wish something else could have been done, such as using a tranquilizer or a Taser, before lethal force was used.
“I mean, you had other options, too,” Jessica Withers, the owner of the dog, said. “The dog catcher was here. She could’ve done something.”
Belton’s Animal Control officer is a civilian employee of the police office. We asked her boss, Chief Clamp, why Tasers and tranquilizers aren’t part of her training or tool kit when it comes to dealing with animals threatening the public.
Clamp said cases like this are out of the ordinary, and those methods wouldn’t work in this situation anyway.
“It was an emergency,” he said. “They wouldn’t have had time to do that.”
We also spoke with the director of PAWS, Anderson County’s animal shelter. She said tranquilizers are tightly controlled and they have to be prescribed.
They also require a large gun and good aim, so they don’t use them for handling aggressive dogs.
“When you have a dog that could potentially kill someone, you don’t have time to stop and think or tranquilize or try to pepper spray or something like that,” Dr. Kim Sanders, director and veterinarian of Anderson County PAWS, said. “Sometimes you have to try to react the best way possible in order to save a life.”
We were told another issue is the dog’s body. His owner said it wasn’t there after he was shot.
The police said they took it to PAWS, which is part of their protocol.