Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith said Tuesday his department is investigating a deputy’s shooting of a Groveland man’s dog Sunday during an animal complaint call.
“It did happen. We’ve assigned an investigator and it’s under further investigation,” Smith said. “There’s really nothing else to add at this moment because it’s under investigation.”
The dog, a 2-year-old pit bull rescue named Red, was fatally wounded after it was hit once by a .45 caliber bullet, said Bradley Bichler of a Groveland Nevils Road address. Birchler said his dog was killed in his yard and the deputy told him he fired after the dog tried to attack him.
Birchler said he’s been told he won’t get an incident report until Monday and that he doesn’t know the name of the deputy who shot the dog, which was one of two believed to have attacked and killed a neighbor’s dog several days ago.
The incident involving the deputy was first alleged in a Facebook post by Birchler’s daughter. She later posted to the Bryan County News timeline on the News’ Facebook page while also posting on the Bryan County Animal Control page. Birchler said he wants answers.
“I’m going to do whatever I can do, use social media, hire an attorney, anything and everything within my power, to get answers,” he said.
He also discounted the deputy’s claim the dog would have attacked him.
“All that dog would have done was licked him to death,” said Birchler, adding Sunday was already a hard day for his fiancé, Deborah Davis, and her family because it’s the anniversary of a sister’s murder 25 years ago.
Davis was at home Sunday when the shooting took place, Birchler said. He had gone to McDonald’s in Pembroke to pick up breakfast when Davis called him on his cell at some point after 9:30 a.m. to tell him what had happened.
The dog had been in her lap when it heard the deputy’s car pull up, Birchler said, and as she tried to get a leash it broke away from her and went outside through a dog door.
“She said the dog barked once and the second bark was a shot,” said Birchler, who added he is also angry over the deputy’s decision to shoot in the direction of another home.
“He shot twice, hit the dog once,” Birchler said. “That other bullet could have gone over into the neighbor’s house.”
Birchler, who said he turned around and got back home just as the deputy was leaving and they talked briefly, wants deputies to change the way they handles such calls.
“If he had just used pepper spray …. There just needs to be a different protocol when deputies respond to animal complaints. I don’t think they should be able to pull up in your yard and do that. He didn’t use mace or anything else, just came out and used deadly force, period.”
Red was one of three dogs belonging to Birchler and Davis, two of them pit bulls and the other a terrier, he said, and all three were able to get in and out of the house, but Birchler claimed they were not aggressive towards people.
“They were just gentle dogs, we never had a problem with them being aggressive to humans,” Birchler said. “If somebody pulled into the yard, they’d let me know they were there, they’d run outside and bark. But I can give you 50 witnesses who will say the same thing, and that’s when somebody gets out of the car they’d run out and start licking them.”
Birchler said the dogs recently attacked and killed a neighbor’s dog after it came onto his property. That dog routinely was unleashed and came into his yard and that of relatives, Birchler said. He said his dogs usually chased it back into its yard, but the last time that dog wound up dead.
A Dec. 19 Bryan County Sheriff’s Department report released Tuesday called the issue a civil matter, but the complainant alleged that “his neighbor’s two dogs came into his property while he was gone and attacked his dog, killing it,” the report said, noting the complainant found a collar belonging to one of the neighbor’s dogs beside the body of his pet. The complainant also said he’d had to stop the two dogs from fighting the day prior to his finding his dog’s body.
Birchler said the dogs were his.
“I went over personally and buried that dog five days ago and apologized,” Birchler said. After that, he said was warned by Animal Control to keep his dogs inside, in a pen or on a chain or leash, or they would be put down. Birchler said he had done so until Red was able to get away from his fiancée Sunday morning when the deputy drove up.
As for why the deputy came to his house, Birchler said a second dog in the neighborhood was injured in a dog fight Saturday and he thinks his dogs were blamed.
Birchler said repeatedly the dogs were not aggressive to people, had had their shots and had been fixed. He said they were more like children to him and his fiancée than dogs since their rescue.
“When I left the house the dog’s head was laying in my fiancee’s lap, I scratched its ears and told it I’d be right back and I’d bring it a biscuit,” Birchler said.
No time frame was put on the investigation.