An Augusta police officer followed proper procedure when he shot to death a service dog, authorities announced Friday.
The German shepherd was shot to death just after 2 p.m. Thursday at a trailer court in the 1600 block of Cedar Dale on the east side of Augusta, said Chief Tyler Brewer of the Augusta Department of Public Safety.
The police officer had accompanied an animal control officer investigating the report of the dog attacking a neighbor’s dog, Brewer said. The owner of the dog was known to have a temper, he said, and the animal control officer was going to write him a ticket.
When the officers arrived at the trailer, Brewer said, the front door was open but a glass screen door was shut. The animal control officer knocked on the screen door.
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“This dog comes blasting up and hits the door,” Brewer said.
That startled the animal control officer.
The dog slammed into the screen door a second time, breaking the latch loose. He charged the animal control officer, who fell backward on the porch and hit his head, Brewer said.
The dog lunged at the officer and was flying through the air when the police officer shot it, he said.
“The animal control officer said, ‘I figured I’d had it,’ ” Brewer said.
The service dog retreated to the porch, where it collapsed and died.
The owner of the dog, Alan Fitzgerald, could not be reached for comment. In a video posted on his Facebook page, Fitzgerald said he was in the bathroom when he heard banging on the door and “all of a sudden I heard shots” and then his dog yelping.
He went outside and found his dog dead on the porch, Fitzgerald said.
A neighbor claims the animal control officer went inside the house, Brewer said, but other witnesses contradicted that account. Evidence at the scene corroborated the officers’ account.
Investigators confirmed on Friday that the slain dog, named Midnite, was a service dog that had been trained in Valley Center. Fitzgerald is a veteran struggling with PTSD, Brewer said.
As they followed up on the shooting, Brewer said, authorities learned that the dog had attacked the owner’s teenage nephew at El Dorado Lake and “ripped his face up good.”
The Valley Center trainer described the dog as “an alpha male,” “territorial” and “very protective,” Brewer said.
The animal control officer also followed proper procedures, Brewer said. He took a sick day Friday because he was enduring “a splitting headache,” Brewer said.
The police officer “feels horrible” about shooting the dog, Brewer said, though it was deemed justified.
“He couldn’t sleep because all he could see is that dog in mid-air” lunging at the prone animal control officer, Brewer said.
Fitzgerald was cited for two misdemeanor violations of the city’s vicious dog ordinance. He has told others he plans to sue.
“The officers did what they had to do,” Brewer said. “They had no choice.”