Palm Desert family mourns death of family dog shot by County deputy

POSTED: 12:30 AM PDT Nov 02, 2012    UPDATED: 01:28 AM PDT Nov 02, 2012 
PALM DESERT, Calif. -

"He's never been a violent dog. I mean he's the opposite. All he wants to do is play," said Bryan Richards.
 
The Riverside County Sheriff's Office says that wasn't case Tuesday night when they responded to a call of vicious dogs running loose in the neighborhood on Carmel Circle in Palm Desert. There they found Bryan Richards dogs Bella and Romeo who escaped from his backyard.

"The dogs began growling and barking and appeared to be ready to attack. The deputy feared for his safety," said Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Vest.

That's when he shot and killed the family's 8-month-old German Shepard Romeo. Bella got away. Bryan and his 7-year-old son Ronnie got the call.

"He's crushed. First thing he said was, 'No. Not my best friend,'" said Richards.

The family understands it was a matter of self-defense.

Richards says, "If you're a deputy and you're going to approach the dog and you don't know what to do, wait for a professional."

Capt. Vest says Animal Control usually can't respond to all of these types of calls in a timely matter.

"Law enforcement does respond first to assess the situation and to figure out if we can resolve it," he said.

However Richards argues gunfire shouldn't have been the solution.

"You have pepper spray, a baton, and they decide to shoot a dog. It just doesn't seem right," he said.

Deputies advise pet owners to make sure their animals can't escape from their yards.

"As tragic as this is, it'd probably be more tragic if a child was bitten or injured," said Vest.

From now on, Richards will keep Bella inside the house when they're not at home. They just watch as she roams the patch of grass where her buddy laid to die.

"It's just been really tough. People look at dogs like they're just animals. To us it's family. It was a son to me and a brother to (Ronnie)," said Richards.

"I miss him a lot," said Ronnie.