Twin City officials are reviewing animal control policies and focusing attention on getting better training and equipment for employees handling animal complaints after an uproar over a dog that was shot and killed by a city employee.
The attention to animal control procedures follows the incident, which happened last week on Old Swainsboro Road while witnesses watched.
Twin City Mayor Jimmy Greenway said the city has received “several complaints in the past” about this particular dog. The dog had a reputation for being aggressive and nipping at people, he said.
The incident drew a great deal of attention after a woman posted a comment on Facebook, describing what her father observed as he witnessed the incident.
The unidentified witness reportedly heard the dog barking and looked outside his apartment to see “the Twin City chief of police and a lady from animal control harassing a poor little puppy. The puppy was very small... maybe eight pounds,” Stephanie L. Hoey wrote on her Facebook page.
Hoey was not immediately available for comment Thursday and Greenway said she had deleted her Facebook page in light of the attention her post garnered.
Greenway said Twin City Police Chief Johnny Lane responded to the scene after a woman called to complain that the dog would not let her out of her car. The complainant knew an elderly woman tripped previously in trying to avoid the same small dog, and suffered minor injuries in the fall, he said.
Lane and responding Twin City Animal Control Officer Sarah Cook tried to catch the dog, then shoo it away from the area so the complainant could leave her car, but it refused to leave the area, Greenway said. It was then that Lane used pepper spray to try to make the dog leave.
“My daddy witnessed the chief spraying pepper spray in this puppy's eyes and the animal control lady was throwing large rocks at the dog,” Hoey wrote.
The dog still didn’t leave, and Lane called a city employee to handle the situation, Greenway said.
“They could not catch the dog and had no proper equipment to trap it,” the mayor said.
Lane “deemed the dog was too aggressive” and posed a danger to citizens in the community, especially the elderly, and he did not want to shoot the dog with his own larger weapon. That is why he asked the city employee to shoot the dog with a .22-caliber gun, Greenway said.
After Lane and Cook left, “… a truck marked ‘City of Twin City’ pulled up and a man with a (gun) got out of the truck,” Hoey wrote. “… The puppy was no longer barking. He was rubbing his face in the grass because he had pepper spray in his eyes. The man simply stepped out of his truck, shot the puppy, and then picked him up by his tail and threw him in the back of the truck and drove away.”
Video taken by a witness and posted on the Internet shows the city employee holding the dog by the tail or leg and tossing it into the back of the pickup truck.
Greenway acknowledged the way the dog was handled was inappropriate, but said the small town lacks a full-time animal control department as well as the proper equipment and training to handle such issues.
The animal control division was created because Twin City had a major problem with packs of dogs roaming the area. Animals picked up by officers are usually taken to the Emanuel County animal shelter, as Twin City has no pound, the mayor said said.
The attention brought to the situation by reactions from people reading and sharing Hoey’s account has muddied the waters surrounding the truth of the incident, he said. While the manner in which the issue was handled is less than desirable, the dog did pose a threat to residents and had been a nuisance animal for some time.
Officers made an effort to locate the dog’s owner, as it did wear a collar, he said. No one in the area admitted knowing who owned the dog. Greenway could not give a description of the dog except that it was “small.”
The incident is still under investigation, and Twin City officials are examining policies and whether disciplinary action is needed, he said.
“We are trying to get to the truth of the matter,“ he said. “We’re going to try to make sure (similar issues) are handled in a better way, and get better equipment. We’re still gathering information and trying to deal with so much misinformation flowing. We don’t want to make decisions based on anger and misinformation – we want to investigate this properly.”
Improvements in equipment and training will be implemented in the future, he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.