TAMPA, Fla. — A Hillsborough County deputy shot and killed a dog near the Gasparilla Parade route on Saturday.
It happened Saturday night around 6:30 p.m. in the 300th block Bayshore Boulevard, just across from the exit ramp for Tampa General Hospital.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said deputies and Tampa police were exiting Bayshore Boulevard near Platt Street when a dog, believed to be around 70 pounds, broke free from a gate its owner had it tied to.
"It’s not something that they take lightly having to fire their weapon at an animal 22:22:48 and it’s something that obviously lives with them forever. I’m hoping anyone who sees it knows that this decision was made for the greater good of everyone out there on scene," said spokesperson Crystal Clark.
Some people shared their accounts of what they say they witnessed leading up to the shooting.
"The man was trying to pull the dog out of the street onto the sidewalk to comply with police orders but the mounted units continued advancing and didn’t provide the man enough time to get his dog out of the street," said Justin Schwegel. "As they continued advancing the man lost control of the dog. It was barking it was frightened of the horses it was barking. I did not see the dog attack any horses," he said.
Schwegel said the man tried to regain control.
"I stopped and pet him. He was so nice that I leaned over and was scratching behind his ears, he licked me. At this time the mounted patrol were coming up. Then got distracted by the horses. He ran up to them, more specifically the one in the front row furthest away from where we were. Did not bark, nor was he growling or biting at them. The owner immediately followed him, and tried to catch him," said Michelle Williams in a statement to ABC Action News.
She said the horses started to get startled some, before she saw the dog run up to the horses and continue to the back of the unit, before her view was obstructed.
"I think in a situation like that people’s accounts sometimes get a little bit blurred just because there’s so much happening it’s a little bit chaotic but the video speaks for itself," said Clark.
Deputies say the dog charged at the horses, attempting to attack them multiple times. They say the first time, the dog ran toward a horse with the Tampa Police Mounted Unit and attempted to bite the horse's hind legs. A deputy tried to tase the dog, but couldn't establish a clear point of contact.
HCSO said the dog then ran back to the side of the road before running toward the horses a second time, ultimately biting Romeo, a 16-year-old horse that has been with the HCSO Mounted Unit for 14 years. They say the dog bit the horse on one of its front lower legs on the protective covering on its leg and had tried to bite it in an area that can be very dangerous or even fatal to the horse.
When the dog charged a third time, HCSO says Deputy Crystal McClelland, who was riding a separate horse, shot the dog once, causing the dog to retreat. The dog died from its injuries at the scene.
"The deputy says that her goal in all this was to stop more casualties because had those horses been bitten severely they could have began running as a stampede if you will towards all those crowds of people. The deputy riding the horse could have been hurt. The horse could have been hurt itself. So it was an extremely tough decision she had to make," said spokesperson Crystal Clark.
On Monday,HCSO released surveillance videos of the incident.
"You can see in the video that the dog isn’t just running around those horses he’s actively trying to attack them biting at the horses legs trying to jump up and bite the horses as well not once but at least three times," Clark said.
The owner of the dog is homeless. He was present during the attacks, but deputies said the owner made no attempts to grab the dog as it attacked the horses.
Following the shooting, HCSO said the owner made threatening statements to harm deputies and himself. Deputies found a knife in his pocket and he was later Baker Acted.
The HCSO deputy's horse is doing fine.
ABC Action News reporter Haley Bull contributed to this story.