A dog in Chattanooga, Tenn. who chomped on a police car like a giant chew toy, flattening two tires and ripping off the fiberglass front fender, is behind bars at a local animal shelter, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The pit-bull mix, named Winston, is waiting to hear his fate, to be decided at a hearing on March 25.
The story, which "sounds funny if you're not in the middle of it," says one person familiar with the case, began on Sunday afternoon. Officer Clayton Holmes of the Chattanooga Police Department was sitting in his patrol car "running radar," when he felt the car shaking and got out to investigate, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Officer Rebecca Rayval tells Paw Nation that Holmes "saw a dog chewing on one of the car's tires. The dog was apparently very aggressive."
Officer Holmes fired pepper spray at the dog, but it only moved from tearing up the tire to tearing up the front fender. "The dog had a hold of the front bumper and Officer Holmes used the Taser on him, which stopped the dog for about three seconds," Officer Rayval says. "But the dog ripped the Taser probes out of his skin and went back to chewing on the bumper."
When a second police officer arrived in his car, the dog flattened its tire too, says Officer Rayval. Winston also chewed the tires on two cars that drove by trying to get through the area, says Karen Walsh, executive director at the McKamey Animal Center, speaking to Paw Nation.
"It was awful. Thankfully nobody got hurt," Winston's owner, Nancy Emerling, tells Paw Nation about learning of the incident. "I think amazing restraint was shown by the officers in not shooting him."
Emerling has had Winston since he was a stray puppy who wandered onto the property at Mann Welding, a family-run business, in October 2007. "He was just a little guy, just a couple of months old," says Emerling. She named the puppy Winston because "he kind of reminded me of Winston Churchill," she says.
Winston lived at the fenced-in property, staying in an enclosed outdoor pen with another dog. "He's not a guard dog, he's penned up," says Emerling. "He's just a stray dog that we took in. He's a sweet dog and has never been aggressive towards people. He doesn't like a lot of noises, like the lawnmower or leaf blower. It just drives him crazy."
The best that Emerling can piece together, "something happened that upset the dog enough to break out through the chain link fence." Winston chewed through the strap on the gate, rammed into the gate until he bent the latch and got out of his pen, Emerling tells Paw Nation. Then he ran around the fenced property, across a creek and out to the road where the police car was next door.
Winston was impounded by animal control officers and Emerling was issued a citation for possessing a "potentially dangerous animal," a legal term defined by a city ordinance and the dog is being held as a "potentially dangerous dog."
The next step will be for a judge to rule in the case and if things go in Winston's favor, hopefully, a new home to be found for the dog as well.
"We would love to have Winston back," says Emerling, "but we cannot take responsibility of him doing something like this again."
But Emerling received a surprise offer earlier this week from someone who wants to adopt Winston: None other than Officer Holmes, who first encountered the dog chewing up his police car.
"Officer Holmes doesn't want the dog put down," confirms Officer Rayval. "He has talked to Nancy [Emerling] and she has agreed. It would be good for the dog to be out in the country." Officer Holmes has a large farm outside the city of Chattanooga and it would "be the best thing for Winston to get to go be a dog and run and be happy," says Emerling.
That, however, will be up to Judge Sherry Paty, who is scheduled to hear the case next week. "We're trying to treat this as a normal 'potentially dangerous dog' case, but it's not normal," says Walsh. "We've never had a dog attack a car before. And no one's ever asked to adopt a potentially dangerous dog."
"He has displayed no overtly aggressive behavior since he's been here," says Walsh, adding that some dogs will throw themselves at the bars, which Winston has not done. But neither has he seemed particulary happy. "No, he hasn't wagged his tail," says Walsh. "He's just here. He's noncommittal and that's okay. We're not his people."