RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A pit bull in California attacked its neighbor’s poodle-mix puppy, prompting the poodle owner to slit the pit bull’s throat, authorities said this weekend. Both dogs died, and the poodle owner was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty.
The incident occurred Saturday morning on Hollyhock Lane in Riverside, according to the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
The poodle’s owner, identified as 30-year-old Rudy Jesus Barajas, was released from custody on Sunday. He is due in court Feb. 23, according to inmate records.
In an email to news media, a county animal services spokesman recounted what led to the dogs’ deaths and the arrest based on witness statements and the observations of an animal control officer who responded to the scene.
About 9:45 a.m., the pit bull’s owner heard a commotion and came out of her home to see her black-and-white 2-year-old dog, Devo, with a neighbor’s dog in his mouth. Three neighbors tried to get Devo to release the poodle, which was described as a 10-month-old mix named Spunky.
Devo’s owner said her neighbor, identified as Barajas, dragged Devo to his property and slit Devo’s throat with a knife.
“Devo ran back to his owner and collapsed in the front yard,” department spokesman John Welsh said in the email.
The pit bull died while his owner was rushing him to a veterinarian.
The animal control officer who responded said he didn’t think Barajas' response was necessary, Welsh said.
“Officers Morales said he believed the stabbing appeared to have been performed out of spite toward the pit bull’s actions and the neighbor,” Welsh wrote.
Barajas was arrested at 10:30 a.m. on suspicion of felony animal cruelty by Riverside police, inmate records show.
His mother, Sandra Romero, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that her son was falsely arrested and that the pit bull was vicious.
“He was only defending himself because the dog was trying to attack him or bite him,” Romero said.
Barajas' stepfather told authorities that Devo had entered their property and attacked their poodle. In response, Barajas grabbed the dog by the neck, prompting Devo to release Spunky, the stepfather said. The poodle had a serious injury and soon died.
Devo then tried to bite Barajas, who in turn dragged the dog into his kitchen and began to cut the dog’s throat, the stepfather said.
“California law allows a property owner to protect himself and his property -- for example, their pet -- when another animal tries to attack the property owner or a family member, or the animal attacks their pet,” Welsh wrote. “However, the willful killing of another person’s animal can result in felony animal cruelty charges.”
The animal services department urged animal owners to make sure their pets aren’t able to leave their property.
“Tragic incidents, such as this one, can be better prevented when people have strong fences or tall walls or secure gates,” Animal Services Director Robert Miller said.