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Owners of shot pit bull may sue Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS -- Owners of a pit bull shot by a Grand Forks police officer are threatening to sue the city.

Natosha Houle and Brandon Enno said they plan to hire an attorney to explore their legal options after Monday's shooting death of Trae the Truth, their 14-month-old, 80-pound pit bull.

"Shooting my dog -- man, that's just not right," Enno said.

"It's not money we're looking for. We're looking for some justice because my dog is the most gentle dog in the world."

Neighbors on the 1300 block of Sixth Avenue North told a different story Monday and again Tuesday when Sgt. Jay Middleton followed up on the incident.

"From the information that I received, the dog was acting very aggressively," Middleton said.

Sgt. Kevin Kallinen said officer Wayne Schull followed policy, which states that an officer is allowed to shoot when feeling threatened with bodily injury by an animal. "The dog ran straight toward him and

didn't give him a chance to do anything but shoot him. He felt threatened," Kallinen said. "Dog owners always say their dogs don't bite; we have to assume differently."

Kallinen said Schull shot the dog "between 30 seconds and a minute" after arriving on the scene. Taser aren't used on dogs, Kallinen said, because they're a small target.

Enno said he is skeptical because aggressive behavior is contrary to his pet's personality. "Not once had Trae ever bit or attacked anyone," he said. "He was a family dog. He was gentle, and we never even heard him growl before. Our dog was like a son to us."

The incident began when the dog chased a girl riding a bicycle. He reportedly lunged at two people, growled and barked loudly. But Kallinen said no one was bitten, scratched or otherwise hurt by the pit bull.

Houle and her mother, Kim Houle, told stories of Trae playing with babies, allowing her 4-year-old nephew to ride on his back and crying when left behind at home. They suspect that neighbors and police overreacted to Trae's exuberance, size and his breed, which has a bad reputation because of its link to dog fighting.

"As big as his head was, Trae was scary looking as heck," Kim Houle said. "He had a look of terror, but he was not a terroristic dog. Just because a dog is big and looks mean doesn't mean he's mean.

Added Enno: "He looked intimidating, but he was a gentle giant."

Enno left their apartment at noon, about 30 minutes before his dog was shot. He said he doesn't know how Trae escaped from the apartment. Monday was only the couple's second day living there, so neighbors weren't familiar with the dog.

Enno acknowledged that police also responded to his mobile home in February because of barking by Trae. He said he let his dog outside in the middle of the night and then fell asleep.

Kallinen said the owners could face charges of not having their dog under control, so legal action is possible by both sides.

By Tuesday morning, the household had acquired another pit bull -- an 8-week-old male they named Justice.