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K-9 officer was just doing its job, Nitro police say

By Rusty Marks
Charleston Gazette

NITRO, W.V. - Nitro city police say a police dog that fatally bit a resident's pet Dachshund last week was only doing what it was trained to do.
Lt. Joe Savilla of the Nitro Police Department said the Dachshund - named Gracie - was killed on Oct. 2.
Savilla said patrolmen D.K. Richardson and T.A. Jarrell responded to a report of an attempted break-in at 3124 31st St. at about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 2. A woman there told police she saw two men running down the street after someone broke out windows at the back of her house.
Savilla said Richardson and Jarrell brought the city's police dog, Bullet, to try to track down the two suspects.
The dog and officers had gone across the street to make sure the suspects weren't hiding in the back yard when the owners of the house apparently let Gracie out to do her business.
Savilla said the Dachshund charged and jumped at Bullet, and the larger German shepherd instinctively bit at Gracie.
"The canine did what he's trained to do - protect himself and his master," Savilla said.
Jarrell immediately ordered Bullet to stop the attack, but Savilla said the bite apparently pierced Gracie's lungs. Savilla said the dog was taken to Spring Hill Animal Clinic, but died a short time later.
Nitro Mayor Rusty Casto said the city would pay Gracie's $700 veterinarian bill, and would pay for a new dog.
Savilla said he has pets of his own, and would hate for anything to happen to one of them. "I'm an animal lover, and always have been," he said. "But the police were doing what they were called to do.
"It's an unfortunate thing that their dog got bitten while we were looking for bad guys who were trying to break into their neighbor's house."
Gracie's owners, Stan Harrison and Helen Burdette, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. But some Nitro residents wonder if things could have been different.
Robin Mallett, a neighbor, said Gracie didn't attack the police dog.
"She was attacked as she came around the corner [of the house]," Mallett said. "[Gracie] was no threat to that dog."
"Is there any way this could have been avoided?" asked concerned Nitro resident and dog owner Karen Fritz. "What if this were a child running out there? "I thought the dogs were under better control than that."
Savilla said no action would be taken against Bullet.
"He did his job," Savilla said. "We stand behind the canine and the officer."

Wire Service
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