Police: Pit bull shot, killed after attacking veteran's service dog

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An Army veteran shot and killed a pit bull that was attacking his service dog at a Nassau County animal clinic, according to police.

A witness told officers that James Strickland, a 70-year-old Army veteran with a concealed carry license, was holding his service dog back from a pit bull that was trying to attack it at Fernandina Beach Animal Clinic at 1868 South 14th Street.

Witnesses said the service dog was restrained and Strickland was holding it back as two people tried to pull the pit bull away.

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Officers said as the dogs were momentarily separated, Strickland told the pit bull's handler twice that he would shoot the animal if it could not be restrained.

According to police, the pit bull broke free from its handlers and again attacked Strickland’s dog.

Strickland fired twice at the pit bull from very close range with a .38 caliber handgun, officers said.

According to witnesses, Strickland never pointed the weapon at any person, nor were any individuals in harm’s way when he discharged his firearm.

Strickland's dog was not seriously hurt but did sustain visible scratches.

Strickland’s dog is a Weimaraner named Betty Boop and is a VA service animal.

The pit bull, named Dozer, died at the scene.

The dog’s primary owner Althea Brown was not at the scene, police said.

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The pit bull was reportedly taken to the animal clinic for ringworm treatment by Mouhamadou Moustapha Ba and Courtney Scott, who also claimed to own the dog.

Scott said the pit bull slipped out of its collar as it was being put in their vehicle.

Florida Statutes 767.03 provides for defense in killing a dog if it is believed that the attacking dog is intent on killing a domestic animal or livestock.

Strickland told police he felt strongly that this attack would be fatal for his dog, officers said.

At this time it is not believed that the pit bull has ever been declared dangerous, police said.