A fatal confrontation Saturday between a Meridian resident and a pit bull mix was a rare case of a civilian using lethal force to protect his own dog — a far less common occurrence than police shooting aggressive dogs while on duty.
A 31-year-old Meridian woman who owned the pit bull was hospitalized late Saturday afternoon after she was also struck by the 9mm bullet fired at her dog.
“A significant amount of that bullet ended up in her abdomen but she didn’t have life-threatening injuries,” Meridian Police Lt. Berle Stokes said.
Police did not have any further information on the woman’s status Monday. The bullet passed through the pit bull’s chest, and it died at the scene.
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Police have not named the man who pulled the trigger, describing him only as a Meridian man in his 50s who was out walking his own dog when the pit bull broke away from its owner and attacked.
Neither dog owner has been cited or charged. Once police finish their investigation, the city prosecutor will determine if charges are warranted, Stokes said.
Officer-involved dog shootings have been in the local news several times recently, including a dog shot twice in separate incidents by different police agencies, and police shooting a dog while serving a warrant in Caldwell in August.
But the last case that Stokes could remember of a civilian shooting a dog in Meridian was in 2010, when an off-duty Ada County sheriff’s deputy walking through a west Meridian neighborhood shot and killed a Queensland heeler that ran, barking and growling, out of its yard at him. That man was not charged in the death.
“What you have is an unfortunate incident,” Stokes said of Saturday’s shooting. “You have two dog owners trying to do the right thing — they both have their dogs on leashes — and sometimes bad things happen.”
It’s illegal to discharge a firearm in the city of Meridian. But one of the exceptions to that city ordinance is protecting yourself or your property from injury, Stokes said.
“A dog is property in the state of Idaho,” he said. “You’re perfectly within your rights to protect yourself and your property if it’s being threatened. ... You have to be careful.”
Saturday’s incident happened at about 5:45 p.m. near North Meridian Road and West Chrisfield Drive.
The man was walking his hound dog on the sidewalk, and the woman was with her dog in a grassy area adjacent to the sidewalk. The woman’s dog was leashed, but broke free and attacked the other dog.
“The pit bull-type dog did make physical contact with the other dog with its mouth,” Stokes said. But he didn’t have information on whether the pit bull bit through the skin or drew blood.
There’s no indication in the initial police report that either of the dogs’ owners were bitten, Stokes said.
Police said the man fired his handgun one time just as the woman was trying to separate the dogs after her pit bull “attempted to re-engage” the other dog.
There were no other eyewitnesses to the incident, but people did hear the shot. A necropsy will be done on the dog, Stokes said.
Stokes’ department has gotten recent attention for promoting nonlethal approaches to dog encounters — in particular, Officer David Gomez, whose video of corralling two aggressive dogs drew praise following mentions by multiple media outlets this spring. Just this month, Meridian police helped coordinate a training on dog encounters for local law enforcement. The group that put on the training raised money for it through T-shirts inspired by Gomez’s video.