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Deputy, fearing attack, shoots dog

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Jan. 26, 2007, 9:38 a.m.)

A Walworth County family is without a family pet, but a deputy may have saved his own life.

On May 11, Deputy Keith Mulhollon was in the Lake Wandawega subdivision searching for the owner of a reportedly loose Chihuahua.

The neighbor who found the Chihuahua thought the owner might be at the home of Jenell M. Casciaro, W5393 Wisconsin Drive, so Mulhollon went there, according to police reports.

He was walking to the door and noticed a large chain on the ground that was moving. He backed up and saw a black German Shepherd coming at him "in an attack mode with teeth bearing" and the hair on its neck standing up, according to the report.

Mulhollon backpedaled as fast as he could and shot the dog less than two feet away. 'Baby' was put down later that day at a veterinary clinic.

The sheriff's department said the shooting was justified, since Mulhollon was in physical danger.

Casciaro said Mulhollon was sneaking up on her house and he could have startled the dog, which she admitted was protective of the family's property. He should have tried warding it off with objects in the yard, Casciaro said.

"What if my son had walked out to catch the bus? He would have shot my son," she said. "Does it take longer to pull a gun out or does it take longer to back off?"

Casciaro wants an apology from the sheriff's department and wants it to pay for the costs of having the dog put down and for the cost of a new family dog.

"Anyone who owns a pet understands the emotional attachment to the animal," Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said. "The events are unfortunate. However, Deputy Mulhollon seemed to have no other options in front of him at that moment."

Casciaro said Mulhollon barged into the home and demanded to know where the owner of the Chihuahua was hiding, even yelling at points.

"He proceeded to tell me that I needed to calm down," Casciaro said. "I said, 'You come into my yard and shoot my dog and you need me to calm down. You need to get out of my face.'"

The sheriff's department denied any such barging in or yelling. Mulhollon asked once if the Chihuahua owner was there and was beckoned inside the home by Casciaro, who wanted him to talk to her husband, Picknell said.

Mulhollon called the veterinary clinic to let them know Casciaro would be coming in with the wounded dog and also took her son to Tibbets Elementary School, according to the report.

" I think he acted professionally afterwards as well trying to resolve it," Picknell said.

The man who complained about the Chihuahua, who had worked as a janitor for the sheriff's department in the past, thought the shooting was justified.

"The dog just came out, and it jumped at his face and tried to bite his face and his neck," he said. "He had no recourse except to shoot the dog.

"It probably could have killed him if it got him in the neck."

'Baby' had been reported to police as a problematic dog several times.

In 2002, a woman reported that 'Baby' attacked her and her three dogs as she walked them on the street. It tried to bite her leg. One of her dogs was injured enough that it needed surgery, according to a police report.

Another witness said his dog was chased by the Shepherd and that he has had to keep his children inside when the dog was loose, fearing it would attack them.

In 2000, a woman reported 'Baby' breaking its chain and attacking her dog by biting its neck, according to a police report.

Casciaro said 'Baby' had been aggressive with other dogs but not with people. She acknowledged the complaints and said visitors to the home would often wait at the end of the driveway until her dog was secured in the house.

'Baby' was about 10 years old, she said.

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