Dennis Lester describes his dog Dozer as a lovable animal who often let neighborhood kids ride his back. He was always friendly, and never aggressive.
"I used to sleep with my son under one arm, and the dog under the other," he said. "He was never violent, whatsoever."
A Weber County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Dozer Monday after officials say the dog got out of his Marriott-Slaterville backyard and acted aggressively towards the public, Lester said he believes his dog was a victim of his own breed — Dozer was a pit bull.
"If he was a different breed, he would have been treated different," Lester said Wednesday. "If the dog would have been a Lab, would it have been shot? It was shot because of its breed, flat out."
Lester said both 7-year-old Dozer and their puppy Charlie got out through a hole in their neighbor’s fence on Monday morning. The dogs ran into a nearby field, and ended up in the area of 700 S. 1300 W.
Authorities were alerted after a man pulled into his driveway and encountered the dog, Lt. Mark Lowther said. Dozer approached the man while he was still in the car, he said, and was acting aggressively toward him.
"He didn’t even get out of his vehicle," Lowther said. "He backed out and called dispatch."
When an animal control officer arrived, she attempted to catch the dog with a catch pole. The pit bull continued to act aggressively, Lowther said, so the officer used pepper spray on the dog. It still did not subdue the dog, so the officer called for another officer. Because the responding officer sounded distressed, Lowther said a sheriff’s deputy accompanied the second animal control officer.
The second officer arrived, and they resumed trying to capture the dog, but he continued barking, snarling and lunging at the animal control officers.
"It was hackling its hair up and acting aggressive," Lowther said. "The dog was not cornered. The dog at any time could have ran. It was standing its ground and being aggressive."
After several minutes, the deputy decided that the dog was posing a threat to the animal control officers and the public, and shot the dog.
A use of force review will be completed following the incident to determine if the deputy’s actions were justified.
Lowther called the situation "rare," and said that the animal control officers had years of experience, and encounter aggressive dogs frequently.
"It’s obviously not something we like to do," Lowther said. "The deputy felt the situation was getting out of control and someone would be bit or seriously injured."
Lester said he doesn’t see why officials could not have used a tranquilizer gun or other non-lethal action. He said Dozer was acting defensively because the officers had taken the puppy, and the older dog was trying to protect the younger animal.
Lester said their family has contacted a lawyer about the situation, but said they were advised they may not have much of a case because of Dozer’s breed.
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