By Brendan Hoover
An Oklahoma Natural Gas employee killed a dog while on a service call at a Mustang home last week, and police are investigating the incident as an animal cruelty case.
The employee admitted to striking the dog with a pipe wrench while working at a residence in the 600 block of West Pine Court Way at about 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22, Mustang Police Det. Camie McNeil said.
“According to him, the dog was aggressive toward him and bit him, but I did not observe any injuries to the ONG worker at the time,” McNeil said.
The dog’s owner, Cindi Holderbee, said she and her two children arrived home from grocery shopping when they saw the unidentified male employee, who stood approximately six-foot-one and wore a white ONG shirt, leaving the home’s backyard gate.
“He said he had to turn the gas off because we were late on a payment, and he walked straight to his truck,” she said.
Holderbee said her son Kobi, 8, ran to the backyard to check on the family’s three dogs.
“When my son had run back into the house while I was bringing in the groceries, he was screaming that there was something wrong,” she said.
Holderbee said she went into the backyard to find the family’s Chinese pug, Mimi, lying dead on the ground.
“I thought it was heat stroke or something, but she was lying in a puddle of blood,” Holderbee said. “I turned her over, and it was pretty obvious to me what had happened.”
Holderbee said she called her husband and then 9-1-1. Police and an animal control officer arrived at the home shortly after. McNeil said she interviewed the ONG employee while the animal control officer, Kim Schmitz, took the dog’s body to a local veterinarian for a post-mortem exam.
The results of the vet’s exam confirmed the dog was killed by external force, McNeil said.
The dog was known to bark at strangers but was blind in one eye and missing teeth, Holderbee said.
“Mimi weighs 16 pounds. The pipe wrench he had probably weighed more than that,” she said.
No arrests have been made. Police would not release the employee’s name because the incident is under investigation, McNeil said.
Holderbee said the employee should serve jail time if animal cruelty is proven. She said she also feels guilty that the dog was killed as a direct result of her forgetting to pay a natural gas bill.
“I feel so guilty, because it was one of those stupid things. The bill just got piled on my desk,” she said.
Nevertheless, Holderbee said she has hired an attorney, and she plans to sue.
ONG spokesman Don Sherry said Monday company officials are conducting an internal investigation but do not dispute the facts of the case.
The employee involved has been reassigned and will not work around animals or in customers’ yards while the investigation continues, Sherry said.
“We are profoundly sorry that this incident happened. We in no way advocate violence against animals,” he said. “We want to publicly express our regret that such an incident happened.”
Employees are trained to avoid confrontation when working in yards with pets, Sherry said.
“Over our history, we have a number of employees seriously injured. It continues to be an issue for us,” he said.
ONG is currently working on a $31 million project that would automate gas meters by equipping them with radio transmitter devices, Sherry said.
By summer’s end, ONG hopes to install 400,000 automated meters within its service area, including 150,000 in the Oklahoma City metro area.
“That would allow the readings to be taken remotely rather than facing the necessity of entering a customer’s yard or property,” Sherry said.
The plan does little to console the Holderbee family.
“We had (Mimi) ever since she was a puppy. She’s been with my son his entire life,” Holderbee said.