April 23rd, 2010
10:30 PM ET

Meter man’s killing of poodle justified?






Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/23/art.shirleynewmandog.jpg]

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.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Sofrito

    Everybody thinks their baby pooch is the only dog in the world that won't bite. When your dog gets out of the house, and runs up to someone barking and yapping, if someone whacks it on the head, it's called self-defense. Poodles are toxic dogs anyhow - yappy, loud, entitled, and neurotic. I love my dogs so I'm very careful not to let them get out. If they ever get out and act aggressively towards someone, then that person has a right to do whatever they have to do to protect themselves.

    This is all the fault of the whiny dog owner who expected this guy to just stand there and take the dog's threatening behavior because she was too lazy to keep her dog inside her own house.

    Good riddance to yappy dogs - they're not real dogs anyhow.

    April 26, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  2. sharon

    That's awful. I think the reader should have stood ground and waited for them to pick up the dog. What a wuss.

    April 26, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  3. Kim

    Disgusting. My heart goes out to the family. Never would a situation warrant that reaction to an animal. Why not just outright kill it?

    April 26, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  4. Michele

    "Accidentally" struck the dog? I doubt it – when you hit a 6 pound dog hard enough to shatter it's head, that's no accident. The guy should be charged with using unnecessary force and animal cruelty and the urility company should be sued for employing this sadist..

    April 26, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  5. matthew

    First the reader says: "Something's worng with your dog" but doesn't mention striking her, then he says he: "struck her by accidient". C'mon he's trying to hide the fact he hit her out of shear aggression. Fool.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  6. Debbie

    If this meter reader could not defend himself from a six pound dog without killing it, there's something very wrong with him. And shame on the animal control officer who condoned it. I work with many AC officers, and don't know a single one who would agree with such a horrible action.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  7. Donna

    I can't believe the meter reader got away with blatant animal cruelty and wasn't even disciplined by the utility company!!! If he didn't do anything wrong then why didn't he say he hit the dog from the beginning? He knew he did wrong, hitting a 6 lb. dog with that much force. Not only would I sue the utility company for pain and suffering but I'd sue the police department for not arresting the guy. Unbelievable!!

    April 26, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  8. melissa reyna

    Wow it was a freaking poodle its not like it was a rotweiler. I think he should be charged with animal cruelty.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  9. guest

    This guy is lucky he didn't touch my dog, he'd be sorry he ever walked into my yard, its a toy poodle there is no right to hit the dog especially when it was just barking, think the owner should press charges

    April 26, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  10. Carla

    I have a poodle about the same size. How any grown man would consider these small dogs a threat is beyond my imagination. Yes, they are yappers but certainly not a threat to anyone's life or limb. The police and animal control officers who found no wrongdoing should be reprimanded as well as the meter reader.

    April 26, 2010 at 9:06 am |
  11. cg

    Very sad story-

    April 26, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  12. pierre

    what goes around...comes around...
    power trip from an insecure meter reader...
    cameras around property... vital ...

    April 26, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  13. trevor green

    its just a dog get a new one

    April 26, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  14. Atonement

    Really? the guy felt threatened by a six pound dog? Are you kidding me? He should be fired for being a wimp.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:47 am |
  15. Judy Boersma

    The penalties should be the same as if he murdered a human.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  16. Judy Boersma

    He should be given the maximum penalty for murder.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  17. John MacPherson

    The dog obviously had a problem, maybe the woman should discipline her dog, if a strange dog she didn't know ran up to her and started barking like it was going to bite her and she hit it and killed it, she would feel justified, it's just because it was her dog that she feels victimized. if SHE had better trained it, it wouldn't of run off property and try to attack someone.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  18. soulsabr

    Simply put, the dog should have been on a leash. I feel for this family because I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to my pooch, but the responsibility for controlling your animal is wholey and squarely on your shoulders.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:25 am |