Man says he exhausted options before shooting dog

March 3, 2011
photo - Flato, the bullmastiff, that was killed Wednesday night. Photo by COURTESY TAMMY MARTINEZ
Flato, the bullmastiff, that was killed Wednesday night. Photo by COURTESY TAMMY MARTINEZ 

The owner of a 70-pound greyhound said Thursday that he exhausted all options before pulling his handgun on a 140-pound dog that had latched its jaws around his greyhound’s neck.

“I had no choice but to shoot into the dog and kill him,” Robert McCombs said.

Tammy Martinez, who owned the dog shot to death, was served a summons Thursday afternoon on suspicion of unlawful ownership of a dangerous animal, a misdemeanor, according to Joe Stafford, director of animal services at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. Martinez identifed her dog as a bullmastiff.

The incident left McCombs’ 6-year-old greyhound, Cooper, with a gash to his neck requiring five staples. Martinez’s dog was not injured by Cooper, Stafford said.

McCombs was walking Cooper about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 4800 block of El Camino when he said he heard a woman across the street “having some trouble” with her dog. He didn’t turn toward her, however, until he heard yelling. The dog was dragging Martinez, he said.

“He blasted across (the street) and came right at us,” McCombs said. “They fought just a little tiny bit and then that dog clamped down on my dog’s neck.”

Grabbing the bullmastiff’s leash, he tried pulling the dog away from the Cooper but the dog did not relent, causing him to drag both, McCombs said.

He said he kicked the bullmastiff before pulling his gun.

“I told her one last time, I said ‘Get your dog off or I’m going to kill him,’” McCombs said. “The lady was yelling things...  and he was not responding to anything at all. She might as well have been a stranger to that dog.

“I could see that my dog was dying because his eyes got real red.”

A tearful Tammy Martinez told The Gazette her dog Flato wasn’t dangerous and shouldn’t have been killed.

Martinez moved to Colorado Springs from Corpus Christi, Texas, with Flato and two other dogs in October, a few months after her husband, Ruben, died from cancer. Flato was a stray the couple took in seven years ago.

Flato was very loving, she said, referring to him as her “dog with the waggly tail.”

“When you sing songs to him, you can hear that thing thumping,” she said.

When Flato saw the greyhound and darted toward it, Martinez fell and was dragged about 15 feet across a grass slope and a sidewalk, causing her to lose her hold on the leash, she said.

“If he was aggressive, he would have went after the owner in self-defense” when kicked, Martinez said.

McCombs shot the attacking dog twice, killing it, Colorado Springs police said. He had a permit to carry a concealed handgun, police said, and appeared to be “within the guidelines of the law” when firing his handgun.

The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region is investigating whether the shooter was justified in firing on the bullmastiff, Stafford said.

“I’m not going to say this is a straight-forward case,” said Stafford. “I don’t ever jump to conclusions. I want to be as objective, impartial and thorough as possible.”

Bullmastiffs are among the dogs banned from Fort Carson under a policy restricting so-called aggressive breeds that also include Rottweilers, pitbulls and Doberman pinschers.

Martinez’s friend, Shawna Pugmire, a former professional dog trainer, was consoling Martinez on Thursday and agreed with her that Flato wasn’t dangerous.

“I let my 6-year-old play with Flato,” Pugmire said. “Given a couple seconds, I have no doubt he would have responded to Tammira (Martinez). And it would have been a whole different outcome for him.”

McCombs said there was a “noticeable difference” in Cooper’s temperment after the incident.

“Most greyhounds are timid anyway —  he’s really, really shy,” McCombs said. “I hope he goes back to his playful self once he gets all healed up.”

Gazette staff writer Lance Benzel contributed to this report.

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