It was still dark out when Matthew Milberger went outside to feed his two pit bulls in the morning.
Tank and Princess are kept chained up in the family’s lot across the street. The lot is large and shaded – a playground of sorts for the dogs – but it’s also unfenced.
Monday morning, two other pit bulls wandered into the lot and rushed at Milberger.
He heard unfamiliar growling, and when the lot’s sensor lights lit up the yard, he froze, Frances Jones said about her husband.
“He knew if he ran, they’d attack him,” she said. “So he just froze.”
Jones has owned many pit bulls, and while she has known the breed to be a docile one, she said for some reason, those two pit bulls “were aggressive.”
Milberger used a boat oar to startle the two aggressive ones, causing one to leave, but the other dog remained on his property. So, he went in his house, grabbed a .22 rifle and shot it in the paw, Jones said.
“We didn’t want to hurt the dog,” Jones, 50, said, recalling when she lived in Dallas and a neighbor had shot her pit bull. “At a moment like that, you just don’t have time to think.”
According to an investigation report filed by the Victoria Police Department, officers responded about 7 a.m. to the home in the 600 block of West Brazos Street. At the time, Officer J.J. Houlton said he observed the injured dog lying on the ground in the corner of the lot.
Princess, the homeowner’s dog, he said, appeared to be in heat.
“Knowing the aggressive nature of the pit bull, I used the female to coax the male to come toward me,” Houlton said.
Houlton said he was able to get the injured pit bull close to him and saw the dog had a collar but no tags.
When Houlton stood up, the female dog “became excited and wanted to play,” he said, causing the injured dog to appear agitated. The injured dog then bit the officer on his right hand and forearm, according to the report.
Houlton felt no pain from the bite because he was wearing gloves, he said.
Houlton reported he then backed away from the injured pit bull to give it plenty of room and was told animal control was paged and would be there soon.
A few blocks away in the 200 block of West Trinity Street, Tana Garcia, 34, woke up that morning to find out her pit bulls were gone.
“The moment I realized our dogs were gone, I panicked,” she wrote in a text message.
She posted pictures on Facebook and reached out to friends and family to help find them and also called Victoria Animal Control and the police department.
“Anyone that knows us knows how much we love our dogs,” Garcia wrote. “We consider them part of our family.”
Arriving at the home on West Brazos Street, Animal Control Officer Taylor Badge told officers the injured dog should be put down to prevent further attacks or injuries to others, according to the police report.
The senior patrol officer on scene retrieved a shotgun from the back of a patrol car and fired once, hitting the injured dog just behind its left shoulder and into the chest, instantly killing it, according to the officer’s statement.
Animal control officials declined to comment.
Garcia was able to find her other dog, JJ, near the intersection of Washington and Colorado streets and was relieved he was OK but was devastated to learn her other dog, Kayne, was dead.
Kayne had been part of her family for 10 years.
“He was not abused, mistreated or mishandled,” she said. “We have seen the negative comments this incident has caused. We are not concerned or mad about the negative comments about us or the breed. These comments are made by people that don’t know us or our dogs. We are sad that people have no compassion and no facts but want to post hateful comments.”
Jones said she doesn’t like that the end result was shooting and killing the dog but also believes the officers did all they could.
“I was devastated, but the officers didn’t have a choice,” she said. “I feel bad for the people who owned it. Yeah, there’s that fear now. The very last thing we need is a child to be mauled by a dog.”