ST. GEORGE, UTAH - The St. George Police Department is investigating a neighbor’s killing of a dog that created a social media frenzy when the dog’s owner took to Facebook to complain about the incident and what she believes is a lack of responsiveness by the department.
“What is known and is not in dispute, is that a small dog entered the neighbor’s yard and approached the man, who was maintaining his landscaping,” the SGPD post states. “The man swung a long handled pruning sheer (sic) at the dog when it approached him. The sheers ended up striking the dog in the head, killing it instantly.”
The dog’s owner and the neighbor differ on what his intentions were, however.
The post describes the officers’ response to news of the incident and ongoing efforts related to the investigation. It also provides a significant amount of detail about the law governing what the police department’s eventual course of action could be depending on the findings of their investigation.
SGPD Capt. Mike Giles said the Facebook explanation was posted after officers learned that a lot of people have been commenting about the situation on social media and complaining that the police “are doing nothing about it.”
“It’s not that we’re not doing anything about it,” Giles said Saturday, a day after the incident took place. “We’re trying to sort out the details. … We want to make a decision that is not unfair to either party.”
Giles acknowledged that the family may not be satisfied with any outcome following the loss of their pet, however.
Even if the neighbor were found guilty of a crime in killing a “companion animal,” the statute establishes the offense as a misdemeanor – a Class A, B or C, depending on the circumstances, with Class A being the most severe of the three.
“We may not even be able to make an arrest under these circumstances, if we find it was a Class B or a Class C,” Giles said. “And there could be a unique circumstance where somebody would be justified in taking the action. … He may have had no intent to do any harm or he may have had more intent than we know of.”
The police department’s Facebook post states that the officers regard the incident as significant and that they recognize it has had a significant impact on the owner and the family’s children.
“As sad as it is that the dog was hit and killed, the circumstances were worsened by the fact that the incident was witnessed by the dog owner’s juvenile daughter,” the SGPD post states.
The dog’s owner posted photos on Facebook of the dead Miniature Yorkie named Chewy and of the neighbor, whose name she says she doesn’t know, holding a pair of shears that she states the man was using during the incident.
The woman also posted video clips of herself interviewing her daughter about the situation, which further inflamed some members of the social media audience.
“What’s sad is that he did it right in front of you. Was that traumatic for you?” the woman asks the girl in one of the videos, after the girl asks why she’s filming her.
“Stop (profanity) recording her. Just as sick in the head as the dude that murdered your dog,” one person posted in a Facebook reply.
Others criticized the owner for letting the dog run without a leash, for having “debarked” it, and one person wrote that the dog had been known to bite before.
Another man posted that his 1-year-old son was in the yard with the neighbor in question, and that the neighbor reacted instinctively to block the dog's rush when it ran into the yard.
But the majority of the responses expressed condolences, disdain for the neighbor and encouragement for the owner to file a lawsuit.
“Killing an innocent dog, clearly not at threat of the dog, that dog was not going to harm him,” another person wrote. “He is one low-life cold hearted person. There is a place in hell for people like him.”
Several of the people refer to calling on the news media to provide publicity about the situation.
Giles said that the information investigators have received indicates the dog’s death was near-instantaneous and that it did not experience prolonged suffering.
“We are trying to do the RIGHT thing to address this situation. Where this is an ongoing investigation we can’t discuss the factors and details that play into the final decision, we are working to establish what they are,” the department’s Facebook post states. “We feel badly for the family that lost their pet and understand the impact it has had on them.”