ALEXANDRIA BAY — It was about noon on a recent Friday when two pit bulls charged at a woman and her dog while they were on a walk near Alexandria Central School.
There were no witnesses as the pair of pit bulls began attacking, refusing to stop and likely on their way to killing the woman’s dog and at least injuring her, but then an officer came on the scene.
Students were in class when two gunshots were fired in the street outside on Sept. 25. Josh David, the officer in charge of village police, later said the officer did everything he could to avoid firing his weapon, but there was no choice, resulting in a tragedy and life-saving effort at the same time. No students were outside and it appears no one inside heard the shots. Mr. David called the district superintendent to brief him on the incident. The school would later issue a message to parents about the gunfire on Facebook, which was taken down shortly after it was posted.
Mr. David said it was about 11:42 a.m. when a village police officer was dispatched to a complaint of loose dogs that were acting aggressively in the Gordon Court elderly community off Bolton Avenue. The officer responded and found two pit bull-mix dogs the size of Labrador retrievers, without collars or tags on, running across Alexandria Central School property. That was a chief concern for the officer. They had prior incidents of these same dogs running loose in the village, and now they were running away from the playground area.
“Obviously,” Mr. David said, “there was a concern that if they were to return back there and there were kids out there playing, possibly the kids would have been attacked.”
The officer first tried calling the village dog control officer, who wasn’t available, so he called Jefferson County Dog Control. A county dog control officer told the officer where the two pit bulls live on Walton Street, so the officers went there and knocked on the door.
The owners weren’t home, Mr. David said, so the officer called dog control back, who were able to contact the owners.
The officer then returned to Gordon Court, where the dogs were last seen, and they weren’t there. The officer began patrolling in his vehicle for the dogs, driving down Bolton Avenue when he saw them again running toward the hockey arena across the street from the school. He tried his horn to scare them away from the area, but then they saw a dog.
The two pit bulls noticed Brianna Sposato walking her Nova Scotia retriever, Levi, down Bolton Avenue. That’s when the two pit bulls began attacking the retriever.
Mr. David said the officer got out of his car, ran toward the attack and began trying to pull the dogs apart. That wasn’t working so he struck the pit bulls a couple times. He tried those tactics, but knew they weren’t working.
Even when he shot the first pit bull, the other didn’t react and continued attacking the retriever, forcing him to fire a second shot. Both pit bulls were shot once, Mr. David said, and were dead at the scene.
“It was the last resort,” he said. “He (responding officer) tried other tactics. Those did not work, so he had no other choice than to draw his firearm and shoot them.”
The retriever, Levi, suffered several puncture wounds and a laceration to its leg. He said the dog would have to do at least one follow-up appointment with a vet for possible ligament damage.
It’s still a deeply upsetting and sensitive matter for Ms. Sposato, but she said it could have been much worse if the officer wasn’t there.
“I appreciate everything (the) officer did for me and my dog,” she said in a text message. “... if he wasn’t there, my dog would probably be dead and I myself injured at least.”
She said Levi is recovering well.
“Still going through some ups and downs,” she said, “but overall still going strong.”
Mr. David said the pit bulls were fixated on Ms. Sposato’s dogs during the attack, avoiding her completely for the time being. He also confirmed no students were outside to see what happened, and no other witnesses have come forward. The owners have been notified, and while they were devastated, Mr. David said they understood what happened and why the end result was what it was.
“For any of us that would have to do that, even for a normal citizen put in that situation, it’s a tragedy,” he said. “Nobody wants to do it, but when you’re left with no other choice, you have to do what you have to do.”