UPDATED: Alexandria woman shoots, kills her dog to save boyfriend from mauling


An Alexandria woman shot her dog dead as it mauled her boyfriend at the couple’s Eisenhower Avenue home January 18, highlighting safety issues for pet owners and local animal control officers.

An unidentified man was moving the dog’s toy with his foot when the Dogue de Bordeaux lunged at him and began biting, said Patrick Cole, spokesman for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. While waiting for police and animal control to arrive, the owner tried to pin his pet to the ground. Unable to subdue it, he told his girlfriend to shoot it, which she did, in the head.

The man was taken to the hospital and treated for his wounds — five to nine bites all over his body.

“These kinds of attacks are rare,” Cole said. “Most of the dog bites we receive calls for are a dog biting someone or another dog on the street … but in terms of a dog basically mauling its owners at home, that’s rare.”

The dog had a history of aggression, including multiple biting incidents and “resource guarding” that went unreported by its owners, according to animal control officers who investigated the matter.

“This unfortunate incident highlights the importance of reporting all dog bites to animal control, regardless of severity,” said Joy Wilson, Alexandria Animal Control chief. “Dog bites do not result in automatic detainment of the animal. We’d rather have all of the facts and work with owners to prevent future safety risks.”

The incident also highlights the risk animal control officers take to protect the public, Wilson said. They are not permitted to carry guns — a catch pole is the extent of their defense — yet the Alexandria Police Department’s policy is to call on the force in all animal-related situations, said APD spokeswoman Ashley Hildebrandt.

This time was no different, though the dog was dead by the time officers arrived. Animal control officer Erika Jewel, who responded to the scene before police officers, shivers at the thought of arriving to an unknown home, hearing a man being mauled and seeing a gun in the hands of an unknown person — with nothing to protect her, not even pepper spray.

“We didn’t now what we were walking into,” Jewel said. “I’m not sure I wouldn’t have said, ‘Shoot the dog.’ [The pet owners] were defending themselves.”

It’s not just pets officers worry about. They deal with humans just as often, and they aren’t always happy with uniformed officers telling them how to treat their animal, Wilson said. She is lobbying the police department for self-defense training and certification with pepper spray, but members of the APD, which certifies officers, believes training animal control officers is a liability; if they misuse a weapon the department would be held accountable, said Capt. Al Tierney. Plus, the use of pepper spray on animals is an unproven practice, he said.

But it all could be moot, because Tierney, who advises animal control officers, says there is no established basis to arm them in the first place.

“I have a Glock 40 caliber at my side right now and I could be in a position where I would need to use a sniper rifle to save someone’s life, but that doesn’t mean I walk around with a sniper rifle,” Tierney said. “I’m equipped for the general situations I encounter.”

He’s unconvinced pepper spray would have changed anything. And if Jewel had arrived during the mauling to see a firearm in the house, she should have exited the home immediately, Tierney said.

Yet animal control officers are contracted by City Hall and are technically agents of the city. They are sworn in to protect residents. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, a quasi-city agency that gets significant funding from taxpayers, employs them. And animal control officers remain on the front lines — ahead of police officers — when unpredictable pets are involved. Wilson’s officers were lucky this time, she said.

“When thinking about the scenario, I and any other one of my officers would say, if they arrived on scene, ‘We’re certainly not going to stand by and listen to somebody get mauled by their own animal.’ So we definitely would have stepped in,” Wilson said.

Editor’s note: This article originally stated the dog breed was a Doberman/pit-bull mix. Based on new information, an Animal Welfare League spokesman now says the dog was a Dogue de Bordeaux, a breed commonly mistaken with pit-bulls. 



    • Dog has known for aggression issues and instead of the owners getting help they let it go on and guess what happens? Some one gets hurt. It’s not the breed, it’s the stupid owners who KNEW the dog had issues yet didn’t seek any help to resolve the issue before it got worse. As I’ve always said One bite ever and the dog is taking a dirt nap. More idiot owners causing us good owners more trouble.

    • It’s people like you, as well as owners that train their “bully breed” dogs to be super aggressive – that make it super difficult for people like me to live in peace and without judgement from others with my SUPER friendly pit bull.

      ANY breed can bite. Just like ANY human can be a complete tool.

  1. The dog was a Dogue de Bordeau not a pit mix. He displayed absolutely no aggressive behavior or resource guarding while he was in rescue. There is not a bite history on this dog. As I understand it from the adopter, the dog nipped (his words) several times in the past. Since we have a return clause for all animals adopted, wouldn’t it have been better for the owner to have returned the dog after the nipping incident. I’m not exactly sure what happened here, but something is not right about this story.

    It appears the author of this story was attempting to inflame anti-pit sentiments. Perhaps the author and previous commentor Mr. Packer need to be educated about pit bulls. One of the breed standards for pits is that they are great with people. Also, it is not Pits that have the highest incidents of bites in this country. Our shelter has many pits, and they are the nicest and most gentle dogs you can imagine. Like any breed, they must be socialized and properly cared for, not kept for protection, bait, or fighting dogs.

    A sad testiment to humankind to advocate for the death of any of God’s creatures.

    • While the author got the breed wrong, the sentiment was correct. You said that the breed standard was that pits are great with people. I’ve heard many people say that. So you have a breed of dog that is infamously aggressive with other dogs and animals. Why would the average family want that in a dog? I know the shelters are overrun with pits and their mixes, but it seems irresponsible to push this type of breed as a family pet. All breeds of dogs were bred specifically to do a certain job. Pit Bulls were bred to fight, either with larger animals or with other dogs. They sometimes don’t distinguish between a dog or a person though. While it’s true that pits do not have the highest incidents of actual bites, they do have the highest numbers of human fatalities and the highest morbidity rate. That means, though they may not bite as often as the small yappy dogs, when they do, it’s devastating. People often must have a limb amputated or an ear sewn back on… Here is a link w/more info. http://dogbitelaw.com/dog-bite-statistics/the-breeds-most-likely-to-kill.html
      I think it is incredibly dishonest to push these types of dogs onto the public. I wonder how many incidents need to happen before the shelters and rescues can be held liable. You all are doing a disservice to the public and to the dogs themselves. Pit bulls incidentally, last year held the highest number of breed/type of dog euthanized in this country. For all the advocate’s propaganda that these are such wonderful pets, the facts are they are highly unpredictable.

  2. I find that the Alexandria Times did not do justice by changing the article breed from Pitt Bull stating to a French Mastiff AKA registered them in 2008 as a breed. These are Pitt Bulls because these dogs meet the standard under which Pitt Bull is accepted under the guidelines. People think they are clever when identifying their dogs with designer names like American Bull Dog or French Mastiff. At the end of the day leasing offices and the community need to understand what the standard is when applying the Pitt Pull rule in a community. I find it disingenuous for the leasing offices to say no Pitt Bulls and then allow dogs in who meet the Pitt Bull Standard. People who know dogs know that this information is correct but the leasing office wants to mitigate liability and put it on the owner but the leasing office has declared an issue with Pitt Bulls and the standard of good faith is not met here under the Pitt Bull determination. Alexandria Times should have researched the issue before wilting to the pressure applied by “concerned business interests and residents”.

  3. that may be true but people do not need a fulcrum to open up the jaws on any other breed of dog other than a Pitt Bull type breed. The same reason do not want a pet alligator is the same thought given for not wanting a Pitt Bull. Virginia law states that is illegal for any community to ban any breed of dog in any municipality and that is a bad law.

  4. “I have a Glock 40 caliber at my side right now and I could be in a position where I would need to use a sniper rifle to save someone’s life, but that doesn’t mean I walk around with a sniper rifle,” Tierney said. “I’m equipped for the general situations I encounter.”

    “I am equipped for the general situations I encounter”… I’m glad Tierny is decently equipped with his “Glock .40”. So was that comment intended to rub ACO’s nose’s in the fact that they are under equipped? If someone is getting mauled should the responding ACO sit in their van and wait for police to respond? After all police are the only ones in this scenario “equipped for general situations they may encounter”. I don’t see the logic in that. Other counties, right here in Va., have armed ACO’s. Are the other counties wrong or irresponsible for equipping trained individuals with firearms? Bottom line for me is this, an ACO should be armed, and not with pepper spray, but a firearm. With proper ongoing training an armed ACO is an asset to the community.

  5. Dogue de Bordeauxs are guard dogs, pit bulls are not. Dogue de bordeaux is an awesome breed however not a breed for everyone, you absolutely have to know what you are doing to have one. It is obvious this guy didn’t know how to handle it or pissed him off by tormenting him.

    People tend to buy or rescue these dogs for the cuteness of the breed not thinking of its massive power, agility and fearlessness. Thankfuly these dogs remain expensive to keep ownership levels low.