October 8, 2013

Deputy recovering from dog attack

Rachel Brown

— A Murray County animal control officer who was attacked by a dog is recovering and not expected to have surgery, his supervisor said Monday.

Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kevin Tankersley was taken to Murray Medical Center on Sept. 28 after a Rottweiler he estimated weighed at least 75 pounds bit him on his chest, arms, neck and face. The incident happened at Spring Lakes Golf Club in Chatsworth where Tankersley was responding to reports of an aggressive dog chasing golfers, officials said.

Tankersley was the only officer on the scene until he was attacked. That’s a situation his boss, animal control director Diane Franklin, said shouldn’t have happened.

Because the incident happened on a weekend when animal control officers aren’t on regular duty, a regular patrol officer should have responded first and called for an animal control officer if needed after assessing the situation, she said. That would have meant at least two officers would have been there to handle the animal instead of only one.

Franklin said no one was disciplined as a result of the incident, but she’s spoken with those responsible for dispatching only Tankersley to make sure they understand the policy going forward.

A rabies test for the dog came back negative, and Tankersley has returned to light duty.

Franklin said the animal was apparently staying at the golf course. Golf course manager Amanda Bishop said the course’s former owner left the animal there after quitting over the summer, and some of the employees promised to feed it while he looked for another home. Franklin said her office advised against relocating the dog after seeing how aggressive it was during a visit regarding another dog.

“My officer told them that the dog is aggressive, but the attendants there at the maintenance barn wanted to keep the dog,” she said.

Bishop said that’s not exactly true. She said the dog was being kept penned up while employees tried to reach the former owner. She said he didn’t return their calls and never came by despite the fact animal control had ordered him to remove the dog within an allotted time. Some of the workers at the club were trying to find another home for the dog to prevent it from going to animal control where it would likely have been put down, Bishop said.

Franklin said she received calls after the attack from people saying they had been afraid to go to the golf course until the dog was gone.

Bishop acknowledged the dog got out of his pen at least twice.

“He wasn’t chasing or trying to kill (anybody) or anything like that,” Bishop said.

Had the animal not died after the attack, Franklin said she probably would have pressed charges. She said there are no plans to do so because the situation has resolved itself.

“It was an unfortunate accident,” Franklin said. “Thank God none of the golfers were hurt.”

The dog died after Tankersley shot it three times while he was being attacked.

Tankersley said this was his first encounter with the animal. When he got to the scene that day, the dog initially didn’t show any aggression, he said. Once the animal was under control and in his caretaker’s hands, Tankersley said he went back to his truck.

“I was actually going to leave the dog, but something just didn’t seem right, so I had this feeling I needed to go back,” he said.

He said that when he did, he was petting the dog at one point when it suddenly attacked him.

“I hated this happened, but I’m glad it wasn’t some small kid or somebody who couldn’t defend themselves,” Tankersley said, adding, “I’m just thankful to be alive.”