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July 9, 2013

Officer shoots, kills pitbull in response to call

CULLMAN — A Cullman Police officer fired five rounds and killed a pitbull on Friday, after the dog reportedly charged at him while responding to a call.

Officer Rick Thiot arrived on 13th Street in Cullman after receiving a complaint from a neighbor stating that a gray dog was running near children riding bikes. Thiot was then directed to a neighboring alley where the dog was said to be.

 “When I got there, kid’s bikes were in the street like everyone had scattered,” Thiot said. “And the complainant who called said the dog was down the alley way, so I drove down there.

“The dog started sniffing around my car, so I opened up my door a little bit to see if he would be friendly, and he started growling at me. I just shut the door and waited a few minutes for him to get away from me. When I got out of the car, he charged at me, so I shot him. I shot him twice initially and then he went towards the front of the house so I shot him three more times to put him down.”

Thiot, like many officers, doesn’t carry a taser. He did first pull out his night stick, but said after the dog charged at him, he went for his gun.

“After that, I called for a truck to come and get the body,” Thiot said. “The captain and a trustee came with a pickup truck, and they put him into the back and took him to the animal shelter.”

An autopsy was not needed for the dog because it didn’t bite the officer. If he would have been bitten, a rabies test would have been ordered.

Thiot said the owner of the pitbull was not home at the time of the shooting, but there were witnesses to the situation.

“I was unable to make contact that day with the owner so I planned to come back in the morning, but by that time they had already called us,” Thiot said. “I explained to him that I used to have a pitbull and I don’t believe that a certain brand of dog is a good or bad dog necessarily, but he was under the immediate impression that was the reason I shot his dog. I’m sorry that I had to shoot him, I didn’t want to, but I had to.”

There is no further investigation planned and no action is being taken against Thiot.

Police Chief Kenny Culpepper said these situations are in the hands of the officers, and he believes Thiot did was he was supposed to do.

“It is at the officer’s discretion if they are being threatened, and we trust their judgment,” Culpepper said.

Cullman City Ordinances for Dangerous and Vicious animals can be found on Cullman City’s website, including the information on animals at large.

“If it was on the other foot and my dog got shot like that, I wouldn’t be mad about it,” Thiot said. “I’d be okay with it because I know that if my dog was loose and went after somebody, then they would do what they would have to do to protect themselves. Yes, I would be upset that my dog was dead, but I wouldn’t be mad. It would be my fault that my dog was because I didn’t keep my dog on my property and inside a fence.”

* Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.

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