City of Sparta agrees to pay $6,000 after ex-police chief killed dog

SPARTA, Mo. -- There is finally resolution for the Ozarks family whose dog was killed by the former Sparta police chief in late 2015. The City of Sparta's insurance company has agree to pay the family $6,000.

The former chief said he shot the caged dog, an 18-month-old pit bull mix named Chase, because he had to respond to a car accident and didn't have any place to take the dog.

Sparta city officials and the risk management company working for the city declined to comment about the $6,000 payment, which was made in lieu of the dog's owner filing a lawsuit.

The dog's owner, Elizabeth Womack, issued a statement.

“This settlement doesn’t bring Chase back, but it goes a long way toward obtaining justice for Chase. What Chief Spencer did to Chase was illegal and absolutely wrong. Chase was so gentle. He wasn’t aggressive that day, just like he had never been aggressive a day of his life. Bringing this case to a close and knowing justice has been served helps with healing our family,” said Womack.

Womack’s lawyer also sent a statement:

The City of Sparta, Missouri has paid a settlement of $6,000 to Elizabeth Womack for the unlawful killing of her family’s pet dog.

Andrew Spencer, who was then Sparta’s Chief of Police, shot and killed “Chase”, a rescued pit-bull mixed-breed dog, in November, 2015. The crux of Ms. Womack’s case against Sparta was that Chief Spencer denied her civil rights to due process when he didn’t follow protocol in dealing with a loose animal.

Chase had escaped from Ms. Womack’s fenced back yard. Chase was equipped with a microchip that would have identified Ms. Womack as his owner. Missouri law required Chief Spencer to hold the dog for a minimum of five days prior to any action. A dog’s owner also has a right to be heard prior to having their property destroyed.

In this case, Chief Spencer picked up the dog and placed it into his patrol car. He then received another call about an automobile accident. Chief Spencer claims to have called a few veterinarian offices and shelters and could not locate a place to take the dog for holding. Before responding to the accident, Chief Spencer drove Chase to a shooting range, and shot Chase in the head, killing him.

Ms. Womack attempted to find the whereabouts of her family’s beloved pet for almost a week. Chief Spencer repeatedly lied to the family in regards to Chase’s location over the course of several days. Finally he said they could pick up Chase’s corpse at the police station.

Ms. Womack found her pet in a garbage bag on the ground outside of the police station. “In addition to the due process and civil rights violations that took place in this case, lack of honesty by Chief Spencer led to this family not knowing the well being of their pet, their family member, for almost a week. A large part of the family’s grievance was the lack of transparency of the City of Sparta government and the outright lies told by the Chief of Police, Andrew Spencer,” says attorney Michael Horn, of Branson, Missouri, who represents Ms. Womack.

One of the more unsettling aspects of this case is the community’s investment in Chase. He was a pit-bull mixed-breed dog who had been rescued by a Springfield, Missouri, organization specializing in socializing and training similar animals. Prior to his adoption by Ms. Womack, Rescue One experts approved Chase to be a gentle and safe family pet.

Chief Spencer resigned shortly after this incident last year. The settlement was paid through a risk management fund representing Sparta. Ms. Womack was in the process of filing a civil rights claim through her attorney, Michael Horn, when the settlement was reached.