TAHLEQUAH — All it took was a few clicks on Facebook for 18-year-old Caisen Green to become famous for all the wrong reasons and to prompt the outrage and disgust of animal lovers far and wide.
Green posted a photo of a fatally wounded pit bull terrier with an arrow sticking out of its gut with the caption, “For all you Pit lovers out there. Here's what happens when one shows up around my house.”
On Feb. 15 the photo went viral and was shared on Facebook pages and posted on the photo sharing website Imgur.
An online petition urging Cherokee County authorities to arrest Green on animal cruelty complaints appeared a few days later.
Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said a deputy saw the photo published on a Facebook page Feb. 16, and the office received multiple calls about it from people both in and outside of the United States.
Chennault said the Green family received hundreds of threats on the Internet, so Green deactivated his Facebook account. The family left the county for a few days after their address circulated on the Internet, he said.
Threats included lynching Green and laughing as he died or choking and stabbing him to death, said Jack Thorp, first assistant district attorney in Cherokee County.
“Reading some of that is shocking,” Thorp said.
Matthew Maestas, Tahlequah resident and creator of the online petition, said it was after he saw the death threats on a Facebook page that he decided to start the petition.
“Like a whole lot of other people, I'm upset about it and I don't want to see it be brushed aside because it was a stray dog killed,” Maestas said.
In an interview Tuesday, Green told Chennault that two stray dogs — one pit bull and one smaller, non-pit bull dog — wandered onto his family's property while he was practicing with his bow and arrow, the undersheriff said.
Green told Chennault the dogs looked diseased and he charged the dogs to make them run away. The smaller dog ran, but the pit bull charged, Green said.
That's when he shot the dog with his bow and arrow. The dog ran about 30 yards away and collapsed, he told Chennault.
Chennault said Green's father said they dug a hole and burned the dog.
Maestas said Green's story doesn't add up with the placement of the arrow in the dog's gut.
“He didn't do it out of defense. It seems more like he wanted to brag about what he had done,” Maestas said. “It was pretty disturbing.”
Attack on breed?
Erik White, a volunteer with Pit Bull Rescue Oklahoma, said the incident is another instance of the breed being attacked.
“They are no more vicious than any other dog,” White said. “The whole locking jaw and propensity for violence is a myth. The vast majority of rescue pit bulls can go back to being adoptable.”
The aggressive reaction from the public over the incident is wrong, too, and helps perpetuate the stereotype of pit bull owners, White said.
“The people that are threatening this kid are acting completely on their own, and it's ridiculous,” he said. “You shouldn't put an animal's well-being over a person's. That being said, this kid did something horrible.”
Jim Wilcoxen, the family's lawyer, said Green is regretful of his decision to post the photo on Facebook and called it a youthful lapse of judgment. Wilcoxen said Green hasn't violated the law.
“He's a good kid. He has no criminal record. He is pretty much an A student, and he is a really good basketball player and athlete, and he's well-liked,” Wilcoxen said. “It's real unfortunate.”
Thorp said the district attorney's office has asked the sheriff to conduct a follow-up investigation after reviewing the initial report Wednesday.
If authorities decide Green deliberately killed the dog when no threat was present, he could be charged with animal cruelty, a felony that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, Chennault said.