A Houston woman is accusing her neighbor of walking into the yard of the home she is renting and shooting at an allegedly harmless dog four times.
The dramatic allegations surrounding the May 15 incident north of downtown were first laid out in a crowdfunding page launched to cover vet expenses for the pit bull, which survived but lost a leg:
As the dog visited with his new-found friends, a neighbor came on their property, scolding them for befriending the dog. He complained of the “stray dog problem in Houston” and, most notably, targeted “the vicious Pit Bulls” with his hateful words. When he learned that animal control had already been called but they failed to pick the dog up, he took matters into his own hands.
Ignited by fury, the neighbor followed the dog around to the side yard and opened fire upon him FOUR TIMES with a .22 caliber pistol as the dog was trying to flee under the house rented by the girls he had just been visiting with.
The dog managed to make it under the house where he remained for 24 hours. It took that long to finally get animal control on-site to retrieve the terrified, injured dog out from under the house.
The dog — dubbed "Caliber" — was eventually transferred to BARC and then released to a rescue group called Triumphant Tails, which raised thousands of dollars for treatment. Unfortunately, his leg had to be amputated.
The 30-year-old neighbor told police that he shot the dog at close range after it came after him, and it was on his property when he shot it, according to HPD spokesperson Keese Smith. The shooter also told police that he had encountered the dog before and knew it to be aggressive. He told police he was concerned about his young daughter's safety and had called the city's 311 help line multiple times to have the dog removed. An investigation is pending.
The shooter, who we're not naming because he hasn't been charged, declined to comment. (His mother owns the home where the incident occurred.)
We haven't been able to reach the woman who was renting the house, but her mother, Mandy Atkins, told the Houston Press that the dog was never in the shooter's yard and was not aggressive. She says her two daughters and son-in-law had just gotten back from church when they noticed Caliber and a female dog in the yard. She says Caliber took an instant liking to her daughter Alex.
"She was petting him and he was kissing her face," Atkins says.
She says Alex put some food and water on the side of the house for Caliber, to distract him while Alex's sister and her husband loaded their two dogs into the car. Afterwards, Alex's roommate came outside.
Atkins alleges: "The neighbor left his yard with a gun strapped to his hip, came huffing through the street, confronted my daughter and her roommate, yelling and screaming, would not let them speak. My daughter was trying to explain, 'I don't normally feed this dog.' He was yelling and screaming about 'You shouldn't feed stray dogs; it's a crime; we have a huge problem with stray animals...' and the man repeatedly shoved his hand in her face and said, 'Shut up and let me finish.'"
The roommate "laughed at him or smarted off," Atkins says, infuriating the neighbor.
"He marched through the front yard to the side yard, where the dog was, fired the gun four times," Atkins says. The dog then ran under the house, where he remained until animal control officers could coax him out 24 hours later.
Now, here's where things get confusing: It turns out that Caliber's name is Blue, and he's not a stray.
And here's where things get extra-confusing: Earlier this week, a woman named Krystin Kirkpatrick contacted Triumphant Tails, claiming to be the dog's owner. She provided photographs — she had no vet records — that matched, explaining that the dog had gone missing April 20, while she was visiting family in Houston.
She told Atkins and Triumphant Tails founder Kym Ann Dabideen that she was visiting from Oklahoma, and tried to find her dog before she went back. Only recently did she stumble upon Caliber's crowdfunding page.
Kirkpatrick, 32, claimed to have no phone, and only communicated with the women via email and Facebook. She said she was broke and unemployed and was trying to raise money to retrieve her dog. (We must note that the dog was not neutered, which is in keeping with the rules of our highly scientific pitbull Scumbag-Dipshit Axis.)
The Press also reached Kirkpatrick via email, but we only wound up more confused. Montgomery County Clerk records show that Kirkpatrick has an open warrant for failing to appear at pre-trial hearings for a charge of evading arrest. Court records indicate that she was charged in November 2015 and, in a financial questionnaire filed as part of her appointment of a public defender, Kirkpatrick claimed to be a stay-at-home mother of two young children.
However, Kirkpatrick at first denied that she was the same woman in the court records and said she had no children. She threatened to call the police on us. A few hours later, she admitted that she was indeed the same person.
We're not sure why Kirkpatrick was not forthcoming, especially since there's no indication that Caliber/Blue was abused or otherwise mistreated. By all accounts other than the shooter's, the dog is friendly — even after being shot at and losing a leg.
"He's just as happy as he can be," Triumphant Tails' Dabideen says. "Amazing spirit in that dog. So frickin' friendly.” (Our hat's off to Dabideen, who really seemed to pull off the impossible by saving a seemingly stray pitbull in Houston, which is difficult enough even when it's not bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound. Triumphant Tails gets mad props.)
We hope investigators can sort everything out. We hope they can sort out why a man who was supposedly so freaked out by vicious roaming dogs left his house to walk up to one of them. We hope they can sort out why the dog did not lunge at Atkins's daughters and son-in-law, and only lunged at an armed man when no one else was looking. We hope they can sort out why the shooter claimed to have fired his gun four times at close range, only hitting the dog once. That's Mr. Magoo marksmanship.
It may beyond police purview, but we also hope to find out what gave Atkins's unarmed daughter the strength and resolve to allow herself to be face-licked by a vicious cur, when her neighbor, a full-grown man, had to shoot the beast. Between a seemingly stray dog and a hot-tempered neighbor with lousy aim, we'd rather take our chances on the dog.