Slain dog sparks controversy, threats

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The killing of a Chiefland pitbull has sparked a bit of local controversy and has one man fearing retaliation from members of the community.

“In my opinion, it was fixin’ to attack me,” said Chiefland resident Richard Gerald about the dog, a red nose pitbull named Mason he killed with a machete chop to the head in his yard Sunday afternoon.

The incident was posted on Facebook by the dog’s owners, Ashlie and Adam Cowart, complete with graphic photos of the dog’s head wound. Gerald said he’s read and received more than 500 threats because of the incident.

“Some of them said they were going to chop me in the head,” Gerald said on the phone Tuesday afternoon.

Ashlie Cowart, recalling the event, said Monday, “Mason runs back in the yard. I can see from a distance something is wrong. (His head was) Literally split from the center of his eyes all the way to the back of his head. It was the most horrific thing I’d ever seen.”

Cowart said she called the police, who showed up just before the dog had a seizure and died, but they told her Gerald, who felt threatened by Mason, was within his rights to kill the dog.

“The police were, like, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do.’”

Cowart said Mason, along with the dog’s older brother, Yeti, was let out after her husband got home that afternoon, a little past 4 p.m. Mason, according to Cowart, is harmless and is frequently allowed to roam the neighborhood with Yeti when the family is at home.

“We take Christmas pictures with my dogs with antlers on their heads,” she said as an example of their easy going nature.

But the dogs are “mischevious,” she said, getting out of their pen from time to time.

In fact, according to Gerald, the dogs had shown up in his yard several occasions before, making a nuisance of themselves toward his own dog. He said he had made two attempts to reach the Cowarts by going to their home, though he was told by a neighbor that the family was out airboating. On one occasion, the neighbor actually put the dogs back in the Cowart’s yard, he said, and the police left a note on the door asking the family to keep their dogs penned up. 

“There are three attempts right there to squash the situation,” he said.

Cowart said she was never notified by police and only heard of any problem through the neighbor.

The pitbulls would usually run off when yelled at, Gerald said, but on Sunday Mason showed signs of aggression toward his family while they were sitting in a car in the driveway.

Both dogs ran off at one point when they were honked at, he said, but then, as the family ran into the home, Mason came back. Gerald, who was doing yard work at the time, picked up the closest weapon he could find.

A Chiefland Police Report on the incident stated “that once the dog started charging him, he feared for his own safety and said he had no other choice but to defend himself on his property and then struck the dog in the head with a machete.”

Police told the Cowarts that their dogs needed to be contained on their own property and that there “was no evidence a crime had been committed.”

Cowart said she thought the matter could have been avoided through better communication between her family and Gerald.

Gerald said he was sorry things went down the way they did.

“I really feel sorry for the family,” he said. “I hate it that it had to come to this,” adding that had it been his dog in the same situation, he’d have backed the Cowart’s decision “100 percent.”