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Owner of Iowa pit bull shot by police speaks out

John Jennings, Newton Daily News –

The owner of the dog that was shot by a Newton police officer over the weekend was speaking out about the incident Monday.

Jeri Fahrenkrug was not a witness to the shooting of her dog, Griz, which occurred after Newton police responded to a complaint at 10:10 a.m. Saturday of a dog running loose in the Emerson Hough area, but she received a call from her brother telling her that the police had just shot the pit bull near her yard.

“Two of the officers were very rude to me,” Fahrenkrug said. “They told me the dog was shot because he was loose and he lunged at the officer. But the officer was 30 feet away, and a neighbor saw the dog running away from the police.”

Cindy Crady, who lives near Fahrenkrug, was a witness to the shooting and corroborated Fahrenkrug’s story.

“That is not an aggressive dog, and he didn’t act aggressively toward the officer,” Crady said.

Crady said she was standing in her doorway and saw several police cars arrive. She didn’t see Griz at first but was watching the officer.

“I didn’t notice the dog at first, but then I saw him standing by a tree,” Crady said. “I recognized the dog as belonging to Jeri. He didn’t charge after the officer, but he looked at the officer then turned his head and appeared to be heading back toward his own yard. He didn’t act aggressive toward the officer at all. He got shot from behind.”

Crady said she felt the officer — Lt. Ron Cook —shot the dog from approximately 20 feet away.

Crady’s description of Griz’s demeanor, however, is quite different from that described by retired Iowa State Patrol Officer Gordon Dodds (see the letter to the editor on page 4). Dodds was the individual who reported the pit bull running loose to Jasper County Dispatch on Saturday morning after he saw a man being harassed by the dog near Emerson Hough. Dodds said the dog was snarling and growling at the man, and Dodds rescued the man by allowing him to get into his car.

But Fahrenkrug said she could not understand why her dog had to be shot.

“It should have been the last resort,” Fahrenkrug said of the shooting. “Why couldn’t they have Tasered him or tranquilized him? Why didn’t he just get back in his car and wait until the Animal Rescue League arrived? They were two minutes away.”

Fahrenkrug said she is planning to hire a lawyer and is having T-shirts printed in order to pay for the lawyer fees.

“My dog was just two and a half years old. He just wanted to play. He was never aggressive with anybody.”

Although some questioned why the officer did not wait for an animal control officer to arrive, Newton Police Chief Jeff Hoebelheinrich said Griz was advancing on the officer and the officer feared for his safety. In addition, a report had been received that the dog had acted aggressively toward another person earlier that morning, and a report had been taken on the dog on Aug. 23 indicating that it had bitten a person. Fahrenkrug was cited at that time for having no dog license.

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