FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - A pit bull mix was shot and killed after it attacked a veteran's service dog Wednesday, according to the Fernandina Beach Police Department.
When officers got to the scene outside the Fernandina Beach Animal Clinic on South 14th Street, James Strickland, a 70-year-old Army veteran, told them he was restraining his Weimaraner, Betty Boop, while two others tried to pull the aggressive dog, Dozer, away, police said.
After the dogs were momentarily separated, Strickland twice announced his intention to shoot the attacking animal if it could not be restrained, according to the Police Department.
"It didn't have a leash, it didn't have a collar," Strickland told News4Jax. "That dog had my dog pinned on her back hollering and screaming. I thought he was killing her."
The aggressive dog then broke free from its handlers and again attacked Strickland's dog, police said.
Strickland, who has a concealed carry permit, pulled out a .38-caliber handgun and fired two shots, killing the aggressive dog.
Witnesses told police at no time did Strickland point the gun at another person, and no one else was affected by the gunfire.
"I stayed out in the parking lot with my hands up until the police got there," Strickland said.
Mustafa Ba, the owner of the dog that was killed, said it shouldn't have happened.
"The dog got off the leash, and the guy just started yelling. Next thing I know, (he had) a fanny pack and a gun out -- boom. It wasn't called for," Ba said. "That was part of my family."
Ba told News4Jax Dozer was at the animal clinic getting a checkup and got off his leash as they were leaving.
Both Ba and his grandson said the dog was playful, not vicious.
"He was my best friend. He loved me and I loved him too," said Ba's grandson. "We always play together."
Ba added, "People have (a) perception that pit bulls or bulldogs are bad. But it’s not. Dozer was a kind dog loved by the whole family and also the neighbors."
Strickland's dog was not seriously hurt, but Strickland said that wasn't clear at the time. The dog that was shot died immediately at the scene.
"Anybody who carries a self-defense weapon dreads the moment that they have to make the decision to defend themselves," Strickland said. "I don’t believe all the stories I hear about pit bulls, but this was a large, vicious animal."
Strickland continued, "I did what I had to do. I feel very sorry for the dog."
According to the Police Department, dog owners are legally allowed to defend their pet if it is believed the attacking dog is intent on killing a domestic animal. Strickland told police he felt strongly the attack could have proven fatal for his dog.
It was not believed the aggressive dog had ever been declared "dangerous," which in some dog cases results in criminal charges for the dog's owner.
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