Owner says pit bulls were 'family members'
March 20, 2012 at 5:02 p.m.
Updated March 19, 2012 at 10:20 p.m.
Not long ago, pit bulls were considered beloved companions - an iconic American breed.
There was RCA's model dog "Nipper," Buster Brown's talking canine "Tige," and the Little Rascals' mascot "Petey."
During the past century, pit bulls fell from their status. Now, they are the definition of aggression, the apostles of crime and predators of the defenseless.
Last week, Victoria law enforcement responded to three pit bull attacks, one involving a 29-year-old woman and her dog near Victoria Station Drive Apartments and another involving a man on Cardinal Street in a neighborhood west of Ben Wilson Street.
The third involved a woman who was bit and a bystander who was attacked as he tried to help her in the 2300 block of Bon Aire Avenue on March 12.
Of the six dogs involved, three were shot.
Julia Garcia, 27, of Victoria, who owned one of the dogs that was killed, said this week that police officers were profiling pit bulls, picking and choosing which breeds to go after.
"The cop killed him on my yard, when I walk out of my house and I see the blood," Garcia said. "I think that there should be something done other than straight-shooting a dog."
Victoria Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Eline Moya said officers are trained to use deadly force as a "last resort" if the animal cannot be peacefully subdued.
In a news release from the police department, Chief J.J. Craig said, "Officers of the Victoria Police Department prefer to find non-deadly means to secure or capture wild and domestic animals; however, in some unfortunate cases deadly force is the only means by which an animal may be safely secured."
Garcia's pet, Wrench, was tethered to her home on Cardinal Street, when he busted through his collar Friday evening.
The man involved in the attack declined to be identified. He said he was walking down the street toward his trailer home on Lone Tree Road when two pit bulls attacked him.
The man hit Wrench on the head after it attempted to bite him. To get away from the dog, he jumped on top of a car across the street; meanwhile, neighbors called police.
When police arrived, Wrench was acting aggressive toward people in their cars, not allowing them to get out, and charged at officers. That is when officers shot the animal.
Garcia called it "brutal."
"I'm sorry for whatever he did," she said of her dog. "I wish I could have changed what happened."
She said Wrench's behavior was out of the ordinary.
"He was my family member," Garcia said. "He was my little boy's dog. I don't know what happened for him to do that."
According to a 2009 report by DogsBite.org, 373 incidents were recorded in a 12-month period in 2008 nationwide that involved pit bulls and their mixes shot for public safety reasons by U.S. law enforcement officers and civilians.
Of those incidents, 148 people were bit, six of whom died.
Garcia maintains that any breed can ave a temperament and bite.
Wrench was 8 weeks old when he came to the Garcia household. The family had another pit bull named Layla, who is now 3 years old. She and Wrench played together, slept in their owners' bed and brought a sense of security to the home.
Garcia said she is not an irresponsible or uncaring pet owner.
"Wrench was my baby. I got him after my first miscarriage," Garcia said. "He helped me fill the void. He was like a kid to me - he was my kid."
She kept Wrench on a leash and collar and Layla fenced in the backyard, but that day, Wrench broke loose. He was simply protecting his yard and his home, Garcia said.
"My son thinks he ran away," she said. "He keeps saying, 'I miss Wrench. Can we go out and look for him?'"
Heather Kern, a supervisor at Victoria City-County Animal Shelter, said the lesson to learn is that pet owners need to keep their animals restrained.
"This would not be occurring if people would take responsibility for their pets and keep them restrained," Kern said.
A dog's territory can be up to two miles from its home, and they will protect it, she said.
"Sometimes a dog will think it's being provoked when it's not. People are just scared," Kern said. "We, as a community, need to be much more responsible pet owners."
Kern said both dogs, Wrench and Layla, were taken to the shelter Friday. Garcia picked up Layla on Monday.
Because of federal law, Kern would not comment about Layla's behavior while the dog was in custody.
"Good or bad, that's not public information," she said.
Garcia criticized police for acting before animal control was on scene and criticized animal control for not being there fast enough.
She said the outcome could have been different.
Kern said that after hours, only one person is on-call.
"If he's on the opposite side of the county, it might take him 15 or 20 minutes to get there," Kern said. "I have no idea where he was (that evening). Whether he had gotten there a minute earlier, I'm not going to comment on that."