When the Bad Guys Aren’t Always Bad Guys

On Monday, Lebanon Police Officer Wheat responded to a man being attacked by a pair of boxers. He arrived at Memorial Park to see an elderly man bloodied on his arms and legs and his Yorkshire Terrier lying dead. While assessing the situation, one of the suspected boxers returned to the scene charging toward the officer. He drew his pistol, fired, and killed the dog. The second dog, it was later learned, was being held by a citizen.

Personally, I can relate to Officer Wheat’s actions. My family enjoys taking walks in our quiet town. Even so, I never leave the house without my 1911 cocked and locked. This day was no different. With my two small children bouncing around in a Radio Flyer and my wife holding the leash of our 30 lb Puggle (please don’t judge me) we set out on an evening walk.

Less than a block from our house we were startled from our peaceful meandering by a large Rottweiler leaping, snarling, and growling from behind a shabby chain link fence about 10 yards from the public sidewalk. Believing that the shabby fence was going to keep the 150 pound dog in check, we continued on our way. Not more than 5 seconds later, my wife and I were again startled to see the dog aggressively approaching our little group.  Clearly, the fence had not done its job.

The dog made a B-line for our dog, Ernie, as my wife maneuvered further away from the approaching dog. As the dog approached, I drew my pistol, fearing for my wife and dog’s safety. Before I was able to fire, the dog was inches from my wife and standing over my cowering dog. Clearly I was not able to get a clean shot. So I re-holstered my pistol and grabbed the dog by the back of the collar and pulled him off my dog. As I did, his owner, who was on the other side of the house, ran around and took “control” of the dog.

In my adrenaline-dumped state, I exchanged un-pleasantries with the owner and we hastily made our way back to our house where I notified the local police. I felt that since I had drawn my weapon in public and almost shot a dog, I wanted to be the first to report it. Since no shots were fired, I chose not to STFU and did not contact my attorney.

While this all played out OK, that decision is, obviously, up to you. Sing TFU after a DGU has been covered extensively here. Sin TFU after a “non-shooting,” though, is an animal (no pun intended) of a different kind. I know several members of this police department and am familiar with their views on firearm ownership. After telling the officer what happened, he assured me that I had done nothing illegal and added that if it were him, he would have shot the dog. I believe he meant that if it were him and his wife were not in the way, he would have killed the dog.

There are numerous examples in the news today of police not batting an eye at taking out “charging” or “aggressive” dogs. Many people, namely owners of the ever-so-innocent and always cute and cuddly pooch that was the subject of said altercation (sound familiar?) feel that the police are trigger happy when it comes to man’s best friend. After escaping my little altercation with a beast myself, I can see where they are coming from. Even in my case, in which no one was injured or bitten, if my wife had not been so close to the dog, I would have taken the shot and been able to sleep at night. Please spare me the hindsight lecture. My safety was off, I was bringing the sights up, I was mentally prepared to pull the trigger.

Broad daylight is not the optimum operating time for bad guys. But, bad guys are not always the bad guys.


  1. avatar Telomere says:

    I agree totally.
    Especially in the case of a large dog, things can go bad fast and just because it is a dog doesn’t mean you lose your ability to defend yourself.
    I don’t want to see a dog shot, and I hope most people are the same way.
    As an animal control officer, I have to tell people on a daily basis that if you don’t want your dogs causing trouble you would do a better job of keeping them contained or under control. I have unfortunately had to respond to dogs that have been shot, both by citizens and the police. You probably wouldn’t believe how hard it is to make the dog owner understand that the responsibility to control the dog is theirs and if they were more responsible their dogs might still be alive.
    I have seen quite a few cases where it sounds like the shooter may have had other options, but having dealt with hundreds of aggressive dogs, both large and small, I have a fairly good understanding of how fast these situations occur and how quickly a decision has to be made. I have also seen all too many cases where someone couldn’t stop an attack, or was caught unaware. The amount of damage a dog can do in one bite is astounding, and a determined dog can easily kill a person who can’t stop the attack.
    So do whatever you can to stop the attack, and defend yourself if necessary.
    Dog owners – if you don’t want your dog getting shot keep him in the yard or on a leash. You never know what might happen, and who else might be involved.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:


      Telomere and Mr. Sprague have a lot of insight on dog issues. There has been a lot of LEO criticism about shooting dogs on this site. Many of the dogs that police shoot are pit bulls (American Staffordshire terriers). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: pit bulls are known to be aggressive. dogbites.org cites 128 deaths by pit bull attacks between 2005-2011. Check the seat of your pants, if you’re near an aggressive Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd, pit bull, big south central mutt, etc. If you are honest, you know that there is a little “pucker factor.” So if you are an owner of said breed, dog control is even more important. Conversely, if your Chihuahua gets loose, it highly unlikely that it will seriously hurt anyone. If your darling pooch were to escape your control, and it is of the variety known to be aggressive, than its chances of a violent end by an LEO or CCW carrier are much higher. And the owner is legally responsible for the dog.

      I’ve been bitten by tiny mutt while at a neighbor’s house, while legally carrying concealed. One of the kids didn’t have their door shut, and the little fuzzy white thing came out in a flash and nipped me in the leg. I didn’t shoot, because my life was clearly not in danger. Although my right leg achieved punting position, the pup was scooped up by the owner before the field goal was ever made. A little first aid, apologies and beers, and the incident was entirely over. Even little dogs can try and protect their owners, but I don’t feel the need to explain that I was “in fear for my life” to the police when faced with a 10 pound dog.

      Some of these choices go by very fast, and LEO’s will take out a dog (especially a pit bull), rather than lose their trigger finger or other soft parts. Criticize if you will, but I don’t see that changing.

      Cheers. I’ve got to go take my Weimaraner and lab / beagle mix out to pee. Stay clear or you may get sniffed and licked.

      1. avatar KWAL says:

        “I’ve been bitten by tiny mutt while at a neighbor’s house, while legally carrying concealed. One of the kids didn’t have their door shut, and the little fuzzy white thing came out in a flash and nipped me in the leg. I didn’t shoot, because my life was clearly not in danger. Although my right leg achieved punting position, the pup was scooped up by the owner before the field goal was ever made.”

        Let me see. You’re on another persons private property and you decide not to shoot their family member who was clearly not inviting you to enter??? How supremely human of you. Was it a Pomeranian?? Come over to my house and kick my dog. Don’t let the iron gate closing automatically, behind you worry you.

        BTW along the lines of a statistician you conveniently left out info that did not serve your purposes. Dogs use their teeth. It’s one of the few sets of tools available to them. Unlike humans that have many tools available to them, supposedly including superior intelligence. Keep picking on certain breeds because they do their job the best. That makes great sense.

        From dogbites.org:

        “Although pit bull mixes and Rottweillers are most likely to kill and seriously maim, fatal attacks since 1975 have been attributed to dogs from at least 30 breeds.
        The most horrifying example of the lack of breed predictibility is the October 2000 death of a 6-week-old baby, which was killed by her family’s Pomeranian dog. The average weight of a Pomeranian is about 4 pounds, and they are not thought of as a dangerous breed. Note, however, that they were bred to be watchdogs! The baby’s uncle left the infant and the dog on a bed while the uncle prepared her bottle in the kitchen. Upon his return, the dog was mauling the baby, who died shortly afterwards. (“Baby Girl Killed by Family Dog,” Los Angeles Times, Monday, October 9, 2000, Home Edition, Metro Section, Page B-5.)
        In all fairness, therefore, it must be noted that:
        Any dog, treated harshly or trained to attack, may bite a person. Any dog can be turned into a dangerous dog. The owner most often is responsible — not the breed, and not the dog.
        An irresponsible owner or dog handler might create a situation that places another person in danger by a dog, without the dog itself being dangerous, as in the case of the Pomeranian that killed the infant (see above).
        Any individual dog may be a good, loving pet, even though its breed is considered to be likely to bite. A responsible owner can win the love and respect of a dog, no matter its breed. One cannot look at an individual dog, recognize its breed, and then state whether or not it is going to attack.

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          Chill out, man.

          The humans invited me in, not the dog. Getting bit will piss you off, and I would have stopped the bite if my neighbors had not intervened. My neighbors stepped in, took the dog, and apologized. It was a small dog, and clearly did not present a lethal threat to me. My neighbors never even realized that I was carrying a weapon. No threats were made, no police response occurred, and I left on amiable terms with my neighbors.

        2. avatar KWAL says:

          Chilled… 😉

    2. avatar Aharon says:

      “You probably wouldn’t believe how hard it is to make the dog owner understand that the responsibility to control the dog is theirs and if they were more responsible their dogs might still be alive”.

      Yes I would since people can be self-absorbed, lack accountability, and thrive on entitlement.

  2. avatar Derek says:

    Wow, I’m glad everyone made it out in one piece. And kudos to you for your “shoot/no-shoot” discipline.
    And let this be a lesson to the part time carriers. You can avoid stupid people, stupid places, and stupid things all you like, which is a great habit, but sometimes trouble just comes looking for you.
    The only thing I could possibly critique is taking your attention away from the dog before you were down the street and around the corner. To me, a dog barking and growling is basically him telling me “I’m bout to wreck your sh!t” If that had been a 150# guy with a knife standing behind that fence telling you that same thing then I don’t think you would’ve dismissed him so quickly. I’m not knocking you. That was just something I noticed.

  3. avatar MadDawg J says:

    Perhaps you are not describing the situation fully?

    “Before I was able to fire, the dog was inches from my wife and standing over my cowering dog.”

    A large dog just being inches from your wife and standing over your dog does not seem threatening to anyone including your dog. I assume/hope you are leaving details out.

    1. avatar Derek says:

      “a large Rottweiler leaping, snarling, and growling from behind a shabby chain link fence about 10 yards from the public sidewalk. Believing that the shabby fence was going to keep the 150 pound dog in check, we continued on our way. Not more than 5 seconds later, my wife and I were again startled to see the dog aggressively approaching our little group. Clearly, the fence had not done its job.

      The dog made a B-line for our dog, Ernie, as my wife maneuvered further away from the approaching dog. As the dog approached, I drew my pistol, fearing for my wife and dog’s safety.”

      Did you miss ALL of that?

      1. avatar MadDawg J says:

        No I didn’t. A dog growling behind a fence and a dog standing are not the same thing. He does not state that when the dog was next to them that it was snarling or growling or even juggling while riding a unicycle, nothing is stated other than standing. Like I said, perhaps he did not describe the situation fully as he only states that the dog was standing there near his wife and over his dog. Was the dog growling, barking, snarling, nipping his dog? He doesn’t say. What exactly is “aggressively approaching”? Again, it is not said.

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          What’s it like to be perfect?

        2. avatar MadDawg J says:

          I’m not claiming to be perfect. I am claiming to be literate and not to jump to non-factually based conclusions on what can be inferred but is not in anyway stated. What’s that like? It’s great knowing that you are intelligent enough to form your own thoughts based on actual facts, I highly recommend everyone try it.

        3. avatar Accur81 says:

          Refer to the picture above for “aggressively approaching.” It’s pretty safe to use your mental skills on that. Problem solved.

        4. avatar MadDawg J says:

          That is a stock image from The Sun UK not an image from the incident by the way.

        5. avatar Tom says:

          I have seen dogs act differently behind a fence, then behave in another when in your presence. I really do not know what the Rotty was doing when in the presence of the couple.

  4. avatar Windy says:

    When I was about 8 years old My mother took me for a walk in the early spring through the woods behind our farmhouse our 180 acres was surrounded by several thousand of state park and folks from the big city tended to dump (set free to live as nature intended) unwanted dogs there where they formed into feral packs.

    For that reason we never went for walks in the woods without being armed and never during hunting season when those same city folks (if it moves shoot) would stray from the state forrest past our well posted property line into our woods (our barn and tractor were hit on 3 different hunting seasons so we had a low opinion of these city folks woodcraft).
    On this fine early spring day we were charged by 3 of these wild pets . In memory they were huge snarling things but I expect they were medium size mutts. My mother pulled a Walther PPK in .32 out of her coat pocket. and double tapped each one. I also recall her shaking like a leaf afterwards as we hurried back to the house.
    The town pest control officer was called as one dog had a worn collar with a tag (from said nearby large city I expect) and he came and collected them and told my folks about how bad the problem of those packs of pets gone wild had become…

    when we returned to our walks my Mom was with he Fathers old Winchester model 12 rather than Dad’s WWII bring back PPK unless Dad was along with his 1911 in its GI shoulder holster.I was not allowed into the deeper woods by myself until I was old enough to go with my own gun about 2 years later. In fact at age 12 I Dropped a pack of 4 dogs near the same spot… Dad and the Dog officer would hunt the packs several times a year both on our land and the state’s and over the years took over 30 dogs this way over 12 years. (our nearest neighbor was well over a mile away). Now both of my folks were very good shots with any gun I saw them use . My Dad shot Army matches with his reserve unit till he retired from the Army in the late 60s. and My Mom shot competitive trap and target pistol with Dad. Both had CC permits from the state which was not common back in the 50s. I got my own CC permit at 16 as well.

    The point of all this is that Packs of once cute and cuddly former pets can be found in places like a state forrest and folks might want to check with a local dog officer if they have dog problems in the woods if they plan to spend time in them… I doubt the problem has gone away since the 60s.

    1. avatar MadDawg J says:

      What state and in what year issued a CCW permit to a minor?

      1. avatar Windy says:

        Rural NE Conn. in 1964. it was a yellow flimsy paper thing larger than a credit card and had to be folded to fit in the wallet… It might have been 18in 1966 but I was a teen at the time I am sure. it was referred to as a “Pistol Permit” and not as a CC permit though.

        1. avatar MadDawg J says:

          That would be a cool piece of memorabilia if by some miracle it survived all these years. You got that right in time since in 1968 Uncle Sam imposed age limits on firearm ownership.

    2. avatar Tom says:

      We used to have feral packs of dogs run the sheep on our farm. We used to shoot them with just a .22lr Savage 36 semi auto rifle with a 1.5X power Weaver scope. I used carry a .22lr rifle many times out at the farms.

  5. avatar Charles says:

    I think you did the right thing.

    Maybe some king of pepper spray would have been effective. Does anyone have any experience with dogs and pepper spray?

    1. avatar MadDawg J says:

      Pepper spray is usually as effective on dogs as it is on people. They also make specific spray for dogs that unlike pepper spray won’t also effect you. Many bicycle stores carry it since some dogs like to chase and attack bikes.

      1. avatar Aharon says:

        What about that spray made for Grizzly Bears? Is that over kill?

  6. avatar Don Curton says:

    Another thing to consider is that dogs won’t react to a gunshot in the same manner a person would. I’ve seen some videos of cops shooting dogs (some justified, some not) where the first round to the chest resulting in the dog flinching and yelping momentarily before coming right back at the cop. A dog doesn’t realize that it’s been shot, fatally wounded, or could get shot again. A dog won’t make a decision to stop it’s attack like a person might. Unless your bullet causes instant death, you may still have a fight on your hand.

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      Good point.

    2. avatar Tom says:

      Shoot the dog in the head.

      1. avatar Philthegardener says:

        28 + years ago, I got attacked by a dog while out hunting. He surprised me good and while I had managed to draw my pistol (didn’t even consider my rifle), in the adrenaline of the moment missed 3 times while aiming for the head. Got him on the 4th and 5th in body. Probably accidentally. Changed my drawers after that…

  7. avatar Mark says:

    “My safety was off, I was bringing the sights up”. Excellent presence of mind to realize that that point that you didn’t have a clean line of fire and stop!

  8. avatar KWAL says:

    Oh no here we go again… I just hope no one, I mean no one , uniformed or naked, ever decides to use deadly force against a member of my family. You guys should write about something real here, rather then these ridiculous, “I was out for a walk and a dog barked at me” threads. I mean this thread should be two words: TROLLING DELETED.

    “The dog has seldom been successful in pulling man
    up to his level of sagacity, but man has frequently
    dragged the dog down to his.”
    -James Thurber

    1. avatar Aaron Van says:


    2. avatar Aharon says:

      “You guys should write about something real here”

      This is very real. Dog attacks occur. So do attacks by snakes and other animals. Sometimes people and their dogs get killed, and sometimes those innocent people and/or their dogs get scarred and lose a limb. Guns are tools that have multiple uses.

  9. avatar TED says:

    A few years ago while my wife and I were walking on our rural road, two dogs which had threatened us before charged us again. The first round in my revolver was snake shot, which I fired at the first dogs front paws. They both ran away and after that, ran for home when they saw us comming down the road.

  10. avatar Eric says:

    I have come to the conclusion that my most likely DGU situation will be against a dog and have started to train accordingly.

  11. avatar Zach says:

    as a dog owner/lover, i dont like it but i get it, i would do the same thing to save my own dog who would be on a leash and not jumping clearly too small of fences(which im sure wasnt the first time) the thing that upsets me is when a cop goes onto private property, see the dog next to his car, gets outs and shoots the dog, or sees the dog from 20 yards away and stands next to his car door instead of getting instead.

  12. avatar miforest says:

    should have shot him as soon as he started for your family in a clearly agressive manner. don’t let your kid get their face bitten. I live on the outskirts of a large uban area where childern and adults are maimed by dogs every year. and killed.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    I used to train dogs and know the damage that they can inflict in a very short time. One of my fellow trainers was ambushed by a dog named “Moose” and had to be stitched together like an old quilt. A Rottie that I was training bit through the chrome leather sleeve I was wearing– a sleeve that I couldn’t pierce with an ice pick. It would break my heart to shoot a dog, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

  14. avatar James says:

    Boxers aren’t necessarily large dogs. They also aren’t particularly vicious or inclined to attack unless provoked; dogs bred and trained for fighting and feral animals notwithstanding.

    Having said all that: The dog is the picture is most assuredly not a boxer.

  15. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    The dog in the picture is a beautiful dobie. I love dogs and I’ve owned several shepards and dobermans, and these dogs can injure or kill you even if their not trained attack dogs. My dogs weren’t vicious but they also wouldn’t let anyone harm me or my family. I would never want to shoot a dog or a person, but sometimes you may not have a choice.

  16. avatar koolaidguzzler says:

    “Officer Wheat responded to a man being attacked by a pair of boxers.”
    Since when does an underwear attack merit police response?
    Ok, enough with the yucks. I’ve seen dogs shot. I’ve seen dogs peppersprayed. And I’v e heard several first-hand accounts from others who have seen or done both. My conclusion = pepper spray is as effective on attacking dogs as pistol rounds, as delivered in the field.
    Also, what I’m seeing is increasing reluctance of officers in shooting dogs, when given other alternatives like pepperspray, fire extinguishers, beanbag guns, batons, and improvised weapons. More and more officers, in my obs, are being taken to task for shooting dogs.
    One more tangential note — from my reading of alaskan hunting blogs, the most recommended measure against the big browns is bear spray. It’s not just for liability purposes. It’s also practical experience — bear spray appears to be more reliable than gunshots, because as we all know, gunshots delivered under field conditions are notoriously unreliable in stopping large charging animals before the animals reach their victims.
    Lastly, due to me being schooled in recent years by pit bull rescue friends, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that pits are not more dangerous to HUMANS than numerous other dog breeds. However, pits ARE more dangerous to other DOGS than most other dog breeds.

  17. avatar Darren says:

    The wife & I were walking our Wheaten Terrier one morning when a front door opened down the street and a 90+lb golden retriever came bounding out of the house on a direct line to our dog. As it showed no signs of slowing, I hit the activation switch on the ZapLight I was carrying, which produces an evil-sounding crackling sound that is apparently even less appealing to dogs than people. The Golden reversed course with alacrity.

    Granted, Goldens aren’t the most aggressive dogs, and it’s possible that its intentions toward my pooch were entirely honorable, but unbridled enthusiasm followed by the posture and gait of a dog that has sighted prey does not bode well. The owner gave me a look, but I hadn’t threatened his dog, I just let off a 1-second blast from a taser-like hand-held device. I returned his look with a smile and a wave and kept going.

    Not sure how well stun devices would work on dogs. If I was being attacked, I’d certainly preferred to have a 1911, but the advantage of a less-than-lethal option is that no gun was produced or shown. Pepper spray would have been as effective, but I’m pretty sure I would have gotten more than a glare from the homeowner over peppering his dog. Hey dude, it’s off your property and halfway across the street. If you can’t control your dog, then don’t have one.

  18. avatar Brett Solomon says:

    I am all for Officer Wheat, but wonder if the PETA people regognize him from SWAT Magazine TV.

  19. avatar don rap says:

    years back i would walk in the woods, near an urban area, to recover from a back injury. once i was quite deep in the woods when i noticed a large dog just ‘doggin’ me on my left about 35 yards away on a slight ridge.

    i thought it strange, never seeing a dog out there before, and kept walking perhaps another 100 yards or so before stopping to take close account of my surroundings. after about 2 minutes while stopped the large dog came down the ridge staying about 40 yards behind where i came from and about 5-9 additional dogs appeared and stayed behind him. they inched closer and closer to me and i thought i was being readied for attack. i only had a small pocket pistol with me loaded with 6 rounds and no place to shelter and no club like instrument handy.

    as they approached to about 15 yards i held my pistol ready and decided to try and look as big and fearless as possible while yelling in my baddest voice ‘no’. once i did this the leader dog stopped as did the rest of them. about two seconds later i did it again and then again. they slowly left and i cautiously went home with a found club like instrument thinking how grateful i was and how i would not be caught so unprepared again. it was a real eye-opener. the dogs were large, probably someone’s once pets but up to no good.

  20. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    This is a sad but instructive thread. Three thoughts:

    First, I think that whether or not you are justified in shooting a dog, you will certainly be second guessed, and quite likely reviled. If the dog you shoot belongs to a neighbor, friend, customer, patron, etc, you are in for a chilly future. Rene Anderson shot a wolf in self defense and even she has been vilified for it.

    Second, as many have pointed out, a gun is not the best tool for the job. Having observed the effect of my electric fence on stray dogs, I believe most dogs are terrified of electricity. That’s why shock collars and invisible fences work. So how about a cattle prod? No risk to anyone around you, no bang, no after effects — just one yelp and a dog running the other way.

    Third, in the particular instance cited, “So I re-holstered my pistol and grabbed the dog by the back of the collar and pulled him off my dog.” I would say coming face to face with a snarling Rottweiler ranks right up there in the terror department, but you grabbed him by the collar? If you really thought he was dangerous that was a dumb move. And if you didn’t think he was dangerous, then shooting him would have been kind of excessive. And once you grabbed him and he didn’t turn around and ventilate your crankcase, you knew he wasn’t dangerous.

    I’m not saying I would never shoot a dog, because I have. I’m just saying you don’t want to if you can help it.

  21. avatar Tyler says:

    I’ve never heard of boxers being aggressive like that. My boxer like every boxer I have ever known is a big dope who just wants friends and belly rubs. I suspect these dogs may not have been, in fact, boxers. People constantly mistake my boxer for a pitbull.

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