The Phenix City Police Department said one of its male officers shot and killed a dog Sunday evening that lunged at him at the Wal-Mart at 3700 Highway 280.
The official, who wasn't harmed, was called to the business to investigate a suspicious vehicle and spotted a man and woman sleeping in a parked van behind the store. There was a large dog that appeared to be a German Shepherd mix in the backseat, said Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith.
The officer approached the vehicle.
"[The dog] was startled and jumped out through the window of the van and tried to bite the officer," Smith said. "It was shot before the dog was able to jump on the officer."
The occupants in the vehicle, who authorities later determined were not participating in any criminal activity, woke up to learn that their pet had been killed. Animal Control was called to the store to assist.
Because an officer discharged his weapon, police launched an internal investigation into the incident. They determined that the officer was "within policy and was within the law to shoot the animal."
"We don't like shooting animals. We don't like shooting anybody," the chief said. "But because the animal was not retained or restrained and the owners of the dog didn't take precaution to make sure that the animal stayed restrained, the officer had to defend himself in order to avoid being mauled by a dog."
Smith said the department had the opportunity to charge the owners for not maintaining control of their pet but decided against it.
"There was no charge brought against them at all," Smith said. "We killed their dog, so there is no reason to charge them for not keeping their dog on a leash."
— Sarah is a crime & safety reporter at The Ledger-Enquirer. You can contact her on Twitter at @SarahR_92.