On November 10, 2015, a rescued 16-month-old Pit Bull–Lab mix escaped his family’s backyard in Sparta, Missouri. He remained near the house, barking at passersby and evidently raising concern.
That same day, Police Chief Andrew Spencer received a call about the dog; a neighbor told him when he arrived that he intended to shoot the dog as the school bus would soon be dropping off children. In a police report published “prematurely” on the department’s Facebook page and later removed, Spencer wrote:
I did not want to destroy the dog if we could help it, and certainly did not want to destroy it in a neighborhood where it was possible children were watching. I also told him discharging a firearm in such close quarters was dangerous as well as illegal.
Spencer captured the puppy, named Chase, with a catch pole and placed him in a crate to transport him to a local shelter. Unfortunately, no shelters—or animal control, for that matter—would accept the dog. The report read that with no place for the dog to go, Spencer would be forced to locate “the cheapest vet to destroy the dog at the cost of the city.”
As he tried to contact a veterinarian, another call requesting his presence at a car crash interrupted. His exact words in the report read:
Due to the higher priority call and the imminent destruction of the dog, I decided it was best to destroy the dog and respond to the accident.
Spencer took the dog, still enclosed in the crate, to the police department’s firing range. He shot one bullet into Chase’s head, killing him instantly. More than a week later, owner Elizabeth Womack would receive news that her dog was dead. She wrote on Facebook regarding the day that Chase got loose:
Noticing Chase was let out of the back yard I immediately started searching for him. I went to the police station in Sparta around 5pm. I was told by a police officer that they didn’t catch any dogs that day. He said they got a call about Chase, but responded to an assault call instead.
The original report released by the department stated that Spencer had responded to the car crash and later returned to bury Chase; however, when he allegedly unearthed the body so that Womack could claim it, she wrote, “We picked him up that night after work. He was wrapped in a garbage bag, no traces of dirt on him or the trash bag anywhere.”
Spencer initially claimed that Chase had bitten someone in the neighborhood, but Womack did not find any mention of it in the police report.
At that point, all that was left to do was bring her dog home and lay him to rest—the worst part for her family being that she is unable to fully explain the situation to her 1-year-old son.
Womack told KSPR:
I trusted this dog with everything. We had a kennel for Chase, and all [my son] does is he sits in the kennel now. He’ll just sit there and look around and call for Chase.
Womack also says her son says his best friend’s name whenever he sees another dog.
Sparta Mayor Mike Younker informed The Washington Post that because Chase was technically considered a stray, by law he should have been held for five days to give his owners a chance to claim him. While earlier 911 calls said they witnessed the dog charging and attempting to bite people, the lack of its mention in the police report, and the fact that Spencer neglected to quarantine him for rabies as per regulation, suggests otherwise. In addition, Chase did have a microchip which was not scanned.
“He was just such a playful little pup,” Womack said. “He had no aggression. He didn’t know what that was.”
Spencer decided to resign after city leaders asked him to step down, and it is unknown as of right now whether Ms. Womack will take legal action.
We will update this post as more information is released.