MALONE - She strangled him right in front of me and I couldnt do anything to help him.
Thats how Malone resident Davona Sharrow described the death of her pitbull, Coco, on Friday during a dangerous-dog seizure gone wrong.
Police and animal control officials say the death was accidental and would not have happened had Ms. Sharrow followed a court order to confine her dog.
According to Ms. Sharrow, Coco got loose from the back yard Friday morning after pulling his leash from her hands. He promptly twisted himself out of his muzzle –– He hates that thing, said Ms. Sharrow –– and ran off into the neighborhood. After chasing him for a while, Ms. Sharrow returned home to find Malone Village Police on her doorstep. Chief Chris Premo says police were dispatched because theyd received a call about Coco being loose and biting someone.
Not for the first time, either, according to police records. The MVPD had previous reports of dog bites occurring May 19, June 12, Sept. 20, and Oct. 5. Justice Michael Lamitie at Malone Town Court had previously ordered that the dog be muzzled, neutered and confined to Ms. Sharrows home. Coco had been deemed dangerous and it was Ms. Sharrows responsibility to keep him away from the public.
Ms. Sharrow and her partner, Annabel Mieses, say this is ridiculous, calling Coco protective of their home and saying previous bite reports were the result of playful nips that didnt even break skin or defensive reactions from the dog when he was kicked at.
Cocoa, as per his usual habit, soon returned home. While Ms. Sharrow says Coco wasnt acting threatening, officers who reported to the scene told Chief Premo that the dog was extremely aggressive and agitated, and that even Ms. Sharrow was having a hard time controlling him. Ms. Sharrow claims one of the officers threatened, with a hand on his gun, to shoot Cocoa if he came at him.
Maybe they did, said Chief Premo. If [the dog] had come at an officer, they would have been justified in shooting.
Premo says theyve received multiple complaints about Coco, who they previously believed was named Thor. His biggest fear has been that the dog would get lose and attack a child, as Ms. Sharrow and Ms. Mieses live right around the corner from Holy Family School.
Ms. Sharrow and Ms. Mieses say this is ridiculous, as Ms. Sharrow once ran a day care center in their home and the dog has never attacked a child.
Police left but soon returned with a warrant for Ms. Sharrows arrest and a court seizure order for the dog. She was charged with second-degree criminal contempt for not following the muzzle and confinement order and for having a dog at large. During their absence, Ms. Sharrow muzzled Coco.
The dangerous dog hearing and dog-at-large charges have since been dismissed due to Cocos death.
Malone dog control officer Shirley Morton and her assistant Tabitha Blow were called to Ms. Sharrows home in a van with a kennel and dog control equipment.
According to police, Ms. Sharrow made multiple attempts to get Coco into the kennel in the back of Ms. Mortons van, but the dog was struggling. Ms. Sharrow says she wasnt strong enough to get him into the crate and that he didnt want to go. The police report suggests that only when Coco appeared to be trying to get into the front seat at Ms. Morton and Ms. Blow did the dog control officers get out of the vehicle and take out a catch-pole.
Ms. Sharrow says Ms. Morton asked her assistant to use the pole on the dog because she wasnt strong enough. When Ms. Sharrow offered to bring Coco to the shelter herself and then willingly go to the police station, her pleas were refused. Police claim that even she was jumping back from Coco at this point.
The crate was moved from the truck to the ground to make the process of crating Coco a bit easier. Ms. Sharrow restrained him while Ms. Blow fitted the loop of the catch-pole over his neck. Ms. Blow then pulled the dog out of the truck and wrestled him into the waiting cage.
After a struggle to close the crate, Coco collapsed inside. Over and over, Ms. Sharrow asked them to loosen the grip of the catch pole. She claims the officers and Ms. Blow waited up to five minutes while the dog was unconscious to open the cage and remove the loop. Police cited a fear for their safety and that the loop of the pole had twisted in the struggle, jamming the release.
Distraught, Ms. Sharrow asked Ms. Morton if the dog was dead and claims Ms. Morton said, Dead dogs dont breathe.
None of the parties contacted ever expected or wanted the seizure to play out the way it did.
She had every chance in the world, said Ms. Morton. I stand behind the Malone Village Police on this 110 percent.
Chief Premo expressed a similar opinion, saying in the end its not the dogs fault it behaved the way it did.
Monday was Ms. Sharrows final day to comply with previous court orders to have the dog neutered and muzzled, and to have a fence constructed in the back yard. According to Ms. Sharrow and Ms. Meises, at the time of his death Coco had been neutered and recently escaped a muzzle. Construction on a fence for the back yard would have been completed this weekend.
Since Cocos death on Friday, Ms. Sharrow and Ms. Mieses have been trying to get the body returned to them for burial. The shelter refused its release until they received an okay from the court, which Malone Town Justice Michael Lamitie gave Tuesday.
Ms. Sharrow will return to Malone Town Court Nov. 12 to answer the criminal contempt charge, a class A misdemeanor.