California authorities said a meter reader acted in self-defense when he killed a toy poodle after striking it with a metallic rod.
But Shirley Newman insisted her 6-pound pet never posed a threat to the worker. “He could have taken his meter stick and shooed her,” Newman told CNN. “Had he caused a laceration I would have said self-defense. But he shattered her jaw and broke her face.”
The incident happened on April 16 in Rancho Santa Margarita, a community in Orange County.
According to Newman, her four-year-old dog, Calisto, snuck out of a gate that surrounded the family’s garage. “I went to open the gate and my six pound poodle got out and I saw the gas meter man walking toward our house, “ she said. “I waved and said ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll come get her.’”
Newman said her husband, who went to retrieve the pet, was told by the meter reader “something’s wrong with your dog.” She said the worker, who is employed by the Southern California Gas Company, told her husband the dog was “convulsing.”
Newman said the injuries to her dog were horrific. “I saw her and she was bleeding so badly,” she said. “I immediately took her down to the vet and saw a doctor.”
Calisto was rushed to the Santa Animal Care Center where Dr. Amy Parker first thought the dog was hit by a car. “”I was working on her as a severe trauma case,” said Parker. “She was seizing, she was not able to breathe, the blood was bleeding into her lungs, she was having difficult time getting oxygen,” Parker said.
Parker described the pet’s injuries as significant and said all of her facial bones were cracked and fractured. “We were all very shocked that what we were looking at was induced by a person.”
After consulting with Newman, the decision was made to have the animal euthanized. She said the loss has been extremely painful. “She is our family pet, we love her to pieces,” Newman said. “My son is 15, he cried himself to sleep for four nights.”
Newman said Calisto was prone to bark but would never act aggressively to people. “She barked but if you went down and pet her or got near her she went backwards,” she said. “She never bit anyone.”
According to Newman, the worker, who has not been identified, initially told her he had accidentally struck her pet, an assertion she doubted. “She was a yappy dog and I think he got mad and he whacked her,” she said.
An animal control officer from OC Animal Care, and two officers from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department determined the meter reader was justified in hitting the toy poodle. “They determined that the dog was off its property and acting aggressively towards the gas company person and he took a single defensive action to prevent the dog from biting him and unfortunately resulting in the dog passing away,” said Ryan Drabek, Interim Director for OC Animal Care. “Just an unfortunate incident but according to our officers we didn’t believe there were any criminal actions that took place.”
Denise King, spokeswoman for the Southern California Gas Company, told CNN the utility regretted the incident. “It was a very sad and unfortunate accident and we’re looking at it very closely,” she said. “I can’t speak to the specifics because we have an internal investigation going on.”
King said the meter reader has not been disciplined. “From what I heard he is very upset and feels very badly about what occurred,” she said. “Our sympathies go out to the pet owners.”
She also said the company offered to pay the pet owner for the veterinary bills and to cover the expenses if the family decides to adopt a pet in the future.
For Shirley Newman, the official responses only add to her suffering. "I never thought it would ever happen and someone would be so brutal to a tiny dog,” she said.