A dog shot July 25 by an Erie County sheriff’s detective looking to question a burglary suspect was ruled “dangerous” by a Sardinia town justice.
But the dog was to be returned to its owner late Tuesday with several restrictions, including a mandatory muzzle and leash while in public and warning signs in front of the house.
Three Erie County sheriff’s detectives testified Tuesday that the dog was acting aggressively and they felt threatened when one of them shot it July 25 at an East Concord residence while searching for a man wanted for questioning in a string of burglaries.
Detective Greg McCarthy testified during a hearing in Sardinia Town Court that the dog, a 67-pound brindle pit bull named Lady, charged at him while uttering a low, guttural growl.
“I realized I had to draw my weapon and I was going to have to defend myself,” he said before Town Justice Gene R. Heintz.
McCarthy said he fired once as he backpedaled on the side yard, striking the dog as it charged at him and was about to lunge.
“My heart was literally in my throat,” he told town prosecutor Jill Anderson.
The bullet grazed the dog’s head and it ran to the backyard. The suspect wasn’t at the residence. But the detectives filed a complaint in Town Court on Aug. 5 asking the town to label her a “dangerous dog.”
Lady was confiscated and remains in the Sardinia animal shelter, where she continues to recover from her injuries.
McCarthy said he feared serious physical injury from a dog bite if he didn’t act.
“That dog wanted a piece of me in a very, very bad way,” he said.
Matthew Albert, an attorney for the dog’s owner, asked whether the dog could have been restrained or called away.
“The dog was locked on me,” McCarthy said. “It was coming directly at me.”
Albert had a friend of the owner testify that the dog was “mild-mannered” and never exhibited aggressive behavior before.
Heintz did not allow the owner’s mother to testify because she was present in the courtroom for previous testimony.
Det. John Graham, who was approaching the home from the front, testified that he heard the gunshot and turned around to see the dog run away.
After the incident, McCarthy was “concerned about what just happened,” Graham said.
Detective Matthew Noecker, who was walking to the back of the house with McCarthy just in case the suspect tried to flee, said Lady’s ears were pinned to the side of her head and she was running at full stride toward McCarthy from the rear of the home on Pratham Road.
“I feel that the dog locked on to Detective McCarthy,” he said. “It’s my opinion that he would have been seriously injured at that time.”
Noecker said the drama unfolded in about 15 to 20 seconds and that Lady was about 3 to 5 feet away when McCarthy fired.
About two-dozen animal rights activists lined Savage Road in front of the courtroom before the hearing.
They carried signs, including ones that said “Lady is the victim,” “No plea for animal cruelty” and “Release Lady.”