TOCCOA - A Lavonia woman who is a part-owner of one of the dogs shot and killed by Toccoa police on Monday said the shooting of the animals was uncalled for.
Cindy Smith said in an interview Thursday the two dogs - who were pit bulls - were gentle animals. She and her husband breed pit bulls, and have done so for about 15 years, and she said the young dogs killed Monday were two that she had raised from pups.
She believes the only reason Phantom, the male dog, and Tsunami, the female, attacked a neighbor's dog was because the smaller animal came onto an enclosed front porch where the pit bulls lived. Smith said she knows the dogs were in a secured area at the time of the incident.
"Their front porch has a railing around it as well as a gate on the front porch that has to be opened from the inside," said Smith. "The neighbor's dog, who was not contained - and he does not have a fence - his dog wandered onto their property onto the porch...and it was eating their dogs' food."
Thus, said Smith, the two pit bulls protected their property.
Smith said when her friend, whom she chose not to name, arrived home for lunch, Toccoa police had already shot and killed both dogs. Smith said she thinks the officers overreacted.
"They [the police] should have sat in their car because the dogs were on their property. They should have waited until the owners got home to take care of the matter instead of shooting the dogs."
Toccoa Police Chief Tim Jarrell said in a statement that the officers fired on the two dogs when the animals failed to respond to voice commands to stop attacking the smaller dog. He said the officers reported the two animals charged at them. (See link to earlier story below.)
The owners of Phantom and Tsunami face several charges from animal control officers, and Smith said she doesn't feel that's fair, especially since the owner of the smaller dog that wandered onto the porch faces no charges for his pet roaming free.
"I feel like they [police] shot because of what they are [pit bulls]," said Smith. "If it had been a lab or a retriever or any other kind of breed, I think they would have done anything in their power to not have to shoot the animals."
Smith said she isn't sure if her friends will try to register any kind of complaint against the Toccoa Police Department, but she said her goal in speaking out was simply to tell the other side of the story. She said if her friends do wind up going to court, she plans to organize a rally to support them.
"If and when they have a court date, if these charges do not get dropped...I'm hoping to get enough people to come to the courthouse with their pit bulls to do kind of like a peaceful protest to raise awareness that these dogs are being portrayed as something they're not."