The Humane Society of Utah and West Valley City attorneys are investigating the claims of a West Valley woman who says her dog "Smoochie" was beaten to death by animal control officers.
Alma Jean Lemons, 3211 Mockingbird Way, said her 3-year-old black Labrador retriever was a gentle dog that neighbors loved and "there is no reason the incident should have happened."But Joe Moore, West Valley City community development director and supervisor animal control, said the dog was "out of control" and attacked animal control officers.
On July 15, the dog bit a neighborhood child in the leg. The child's father called animal control and reported the incident to officials.
Moore said city ordinance requires an animal be quarantined for nine days after it bites a person to determine if it has rabies.
Moore contends that Lemons did not hold the dog for officers but instead went inside her house and closed the door.
The dog then ran from officers, triggering a 20-minute neighborhood chase joined by children and neighbors.
Moore said the dog was cornered on the back porch of the Lemons home at one point. But the animal jumped up and knocked down Officer Lynn Williams, who suffered a concussion and abrasions when he fell. He missed five days of work due to injuries, Moore said.
The injured officer then radioed for assistance from two officers, who arrived in a civilian vehicle. The assisting officers were also injured by the dog, Moore said.
Officer Stan Larsen suffered separated rib cartilage while struggling with the dog.
The dog was finally controlled when officers hit him on the back of the head with a control stick. The dog was dazed but still strong enough to bite Office Rusty Isaacson on the arm before he was placed in the animal control truck.
The dog died in the truck on the way to the animal shelter, Moore said.
But Lemons and a neighbor tell a different story.
Carol Gleave, 3239 Mockingbird Way, said after officers arrived in a civilian vehicle, they chased the dog and "beat him with nun-chucks and billy clubs."
Moore says the officer only used the martial arts weapon to beat the ground and make "a loud enough noise to scare the dog into the yard."
Gleave said the dog "was hit in the head at least three times on the Lemons' porch, once near the house and one time at the southwest corner of the yard."
"There's blood all over to neighborhood to prove it," she said.
Although officers and Moore insist the dog was never hit, Gleave and Lemons say the official report indicates otherwise.
"The police report says the dog was hit," Gleave said. "If he wasn't hit, what did he die from?"
Lemons said her dog was "hit so many times he just dropped."
"They made it sound like my dog was a bad, bad dog," she said. "But from the time they (officers) pulled up, they harassed me."
She added that all the neighborhood children - except the child who was bitten - played with the dog ever since he was a pup.
"That boy has been teasing the dog for two years; he was always teasing the dog," she said.
"I honestly didn't believe things like this really happened until it happened to me. It's not going to be easy going up against them. They didn't think I'd push it," Lemons said.
John Fox, cruelty investigator for the Humane Society, said it is not the job of the Humane Society to determine who is right or wrong, but to "make sure the animal's rights have been upheld."