The dog behind the wheel did not look happy.

“He ain’t, and neither am I,” Kilgore Police Officer Josh Vercher told his chief.

At the very least, when he’d picked up a bag of beef jerky for an on-patrol protein boost Saturday night, Vercher wasn’t planning on sharing it with a pit bull. He certainly hadn’t expected to share the driver’s seat in his cruiser June 15.

Kilgore doesn’t have a 24/7 Animal Control Officer – instead, KPD picks up the task when dog-catchers aren’t on active duty.

So, when Vercher was dispatched on an after-hours animal control call for an aggressive dog, he was ready.

“We are mandated by law that we go through a course on how to handle encounters with canines,” Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter noted. “This is due in part to issues that have occurred in Texas where family pets have been shot by officers.

“We’re very cognizant of that concern. We know pets can be territorial. We’re taught different techniques on how to handle those encounters … We try to handle it ourselves and if we can’t we’ll call one of the animal control officers on call.”

In this Saturday night incident, Vercher quickly located the escaped dog and formulated a plan. He opened one of the back doors of his patrol vehicle and tried to coax the dog into that caged portion of the cruiser.

”In his haste, the officer also left the driver’s door open,” KPD reported.

The pup – which quickly earned a new nickname, Cujo – leapt into the driver’s seat and became aggressive when Vercher tried to draw him out.

“The door was shut to prevent injury to the dog or officer,” and the pit chowed down on Vercher’s midnight snack as the officer watched.

Ultimately, the animal control officer on call removed the dog and transported him to Longview Animal Care & Adoption Center – he was reunited with his owner Monday.

Per KPD, “We learned from the animal shelter he was really a loving critter. He was most probably scared after escaping his yard. His real name is Chato, and he is home resting after being bailed out.”

Hunter praised Vercher’s good-natured handling of the incident.

“I thought the officer did a great job,” he said, in line with KPD’s focus on reuniting pets with their owners (often via announcements on social media). “If we can reunite the owner fairly quickly, we don’t have to get animal control involved and the animal doesn’t have to be taken over to the Longview animal shelter.”

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