No Cruelty Charges for Man Who Killed Pit Bull at PetSmart Adoption Event

clara pit bull stabbed at petsmartAlthough he stabbed a Pit Bull named Clara multiple times with a pocket knife — even as his young son begged him to stop — a Georgia grand jury decided this week that Craig Emory Hayes will face no animal cruelty charges.

Clara had been brought to a PetSmart adoption event in August by volunteers from the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society (NCHS), who were hoping to find her a forever home.

Instead, due to her injuries, the volunteers had to make the heartbreaking decision to have Clara euthanized in the store’s pet hospital.

Clara had broken free from her collar and bitten the ear of Hayes’ Yorkshire Terrier after the little dog growled at her.

Screaming “F–king Pit Bulls” over and over, eyewitnesses said Hayes pulled out the knife and began plunging it into Clara’s neck, even after she released his Yorkie’s ear.

Horrified PetSmart customers told the Newnan Times-Herald what they had seen. Erin Burr said Hayes had earlier told Clara’s handler, “If you bring that f–king Pit Bull near me, I’m going to stab it.”

Teresa Reeves and her fiance, Mike Wohler, had come to the PetSmart event hoping to adopt a Pit Bull.

Reeves said Clara wasn’t viciously attacking the Yorkie, but nipping some loose skin on its neck. “Clara wasn’t clamped down on the dog,” she told the Times-Herald. Neither dog was moving.

“It could have easily been broken up,” Reeves said. Instead, Hayes started pushing and kicking Clara, “making things worse. The guy was just screaming, ‘F–king Pit Bull, why are you even allowed to have these dogs?’’’

clara pit bull stabbed at petsmartWhen he began to stab Clara, Reeves tried to protect the dog by wrapping her arms around her.

“He wasn’t stabbing like he was trying to save his dog. He was stabbing trying to kill this dog,” Reeves said.

With blood flowing from her wounds, Clara lay on the floor of PetSmart, wagging her tail as shocked customers petted her. She and the Yorkie were taken to the pet hospital inside the store.

Sandy Hiser, president of the NCHS, told the Times-Herald that Clara’s wounds were so severe “that if she did pull through, it would have impacted her quality of life.”

The Yorkie whose ear she bit was transferred to an emergency animal hospital, treated for a blood clot and released the next morning.

According to Hiser, a police officer who interviewed Hayes said he had the right to defend his dog. But was it necessary to stab Clara multiple times?

“He straight murdered this dog in front of 30, 40 people,” Wohler told the Times-Herald. “He didn’t like Pit Bulls. This just gave him the excuse he needed.”

“Facts” vs. Emotions Sway Grand Jury

Earlier this week, the Coweta County grand jury returned a “no bill” on a charge against Hayes of aggravated cruelty to an animal. This means the case is closed and no files will be charged.

According to Georgia state law, aggravated cruelty to animals occurs when someone “knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal’s body useless or by seriously disfiguring such animal.”clara pit bull stabbed at petsmart

The law does not prohibit someone from “defending his or her person or property, or the person or property of another, from injury or damage being caused by an animal.”

So, does it apply to someone who continued to violently stab a dog in the neck, even after that dog has released his dog?

Apparently not.

Pete Skandalakis, the district attorney of Coweta County, said in a press release that the grand jury had information that had not previously been disclosed to the public, the Newnan Times-Herald reported today.

This information included testimony from Newnan Police Sgt. Brent Blankenship, the case’s lead investigator. (I can’t help but wonder if he was the same police officer who had told the NCHS’ Hiser that Hayes had a right to defend his dog.)

clara_pit_bull_stabbed_at_petsmart_montageThe grand jury questioned Blankenship “regarding some inaccurate information which has been circulating in public forums,” Skandalakis said. Blankenship testified that there was no witness corroboration that Hayes had made derogatory statements about Pit Bulls before attacking Clara, and had only made them after the stabbing.

What happened to all of those eyewitnesses interviewed by the Newman Times-Herald last August — did the grand jury get to hear their testimonies as well?

The decision to not even give Hayes a slap on the wrist was also influenced by a report from the PetSmart pet hospital, which stated that Clara wasn’t only euthanized because of the extensiveness of her stab wounds — but also due to her “lack of adoptability” and “history of dog-related aggression.”

(I think it should be noted, as I wrote about back in February 2012, that PetSmart has a corporate policy of not allowing Pit Bulls and other bully breeds in its Doggie Day Camps because the company views them as “unpredictable.”)

“This was a tragic event but the grand jury got it right and declined to file charges,” Skandalakis said. “Emotions always run high in cases involving animals, and as a pet owner I understand how people feel about these types of cases, but you can’t make a decision to charge a person with a crime based upon emotions when the facts and the law say otherwise.”


Something really, really stinks in this case, and it’s not just Hayes’ attitude toward Pit Bulls and lack of anger management.

Rest in peace, Clara. The NCHS volunteer who “loved and cared for her most” wrote this beautiful tribute on the humane society’s website:

“Clara was a joyful, loving girl who people instantly fell in love with and I want her remembered that way.

I spent almost every day for the past 29 months with her and a part of me is gone forever … She was my friend, therapist and baby who I will love forever. She taught me how to enjoy the moment, appreciate a cool, shady spot on a hot summer day and gave unconditional love. She was the world’s happiest homeless dog and she will always live in my heart.

I don’t want her to have died in vain…I love you, Clara.”

Photos via Facebook

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!

20 thoughts on “No Cruelty Charges for Man Who Killed Pit Bull at PetSmart Adoption Event

  • I wish I could have been there , Mr. Hayes would still be in intensive care .

    • Yeah,sure tough guy.You would have been put down just like that worthless mutt that shouldnt have been there in the first place.What makes the life of a pit bull more special than that of any other pet?I hope if you’re put in that mans position one day you have to balls to save your pet by whatever means neccesary.Then again you probably own a pitbull like so many who need one of those dogs to overcompensate for something they are…er…lacking in.

        • shiloh66

          Actually that is myth and a big fat lie,even pro pit advocates and rescues like Bad Rap states so.It is misleading so please quit repeating this lie
          and as to you having to defend you’re dog I can bet the attacking dog wasn’t a pitbull.Pitbulls might not start every fight but they’ll darn sure finish it.Either they or their intended victim or both will be dead straight out Tia Torres mouth.Many pitbulls have died still latched onto their intended victim.Pitbulls have been hit with shovels,rakes,baseball bats and even shot and gutted and still kept on attacking.

        • Miller Sands

          90 % of dogs identifying as Pitbulls need to be put down and their owners educated on how to properly train dogs. When I see a pit eyeballing a kid or someone’s puppy dog I find a stout stick and go beat the daylights out of it. if the owner objects and tries to stop me, he gets the stick too

      • Exactly!The rescue knew this dog had issues with other dogs,yet they chose to ignore the warning signs and brought this dog to of all places a pet store where there be other dogs there.The rescue failed this dog.Shouldve never been there to begin with.The rescue made it his problem and he solved it.

        • You call stabbing a dog repeatedly, ‘solving a problem?’ Wow.

          No. A dog biting another dog is NOT any reason to do this. He had no place, no reason to, and he has serious issues, as do the people making excuses for him.

  • LADY, I am glad your opinion doesn’t count any more than mine! No animal should be stabbed in the neck! Especially in front of 30 or 40 people, whats wrong with you? Even after the dog dropped the other one the man just would not stop. Who do you think was more unpredictable?

    • she’s a moron .

  • Also, I truly believe that charges should have been pressed. This is just an excuse to kill an animal. All dogs that are at any adoption event held by any A.S.P.C.A. or any Humane Society have been S.A.F.E.R. tested,check it out. I understand that what the dog did was wrong, but who do you think acted more wrong,and who are YOU to call anything worthless?

    • He didn’t kill the dog.The vets decided that the dog wasn’t worth saving thanks to prior instances of violence and put it down.Apparently the A.S.P.C.A wasn’t doing their job.Sorry if this hurts your feelings but any dog that shows violence like that is worthless.Dogs are a creation made by humans so it is well with my rights to decide if I want one of these malfunctioning weapons around me or not.Its horrifying to think that someone in my neighborhood could have adopted that dog.

      • Kelly Cornell

        I hope you never own an animal. If your child showed aggression should it be violently killed since it too was man made?

      • He did kill the dog. He stabbed it so badly it could not be saved.

  • Erica

    My only comment is this, with 30-40 witnesses why in hell did not one person try to stop this guy! This has nothing to do with this being a pitbull. WHY did everyone just sit there and do nothing! I would protect my dog by any means necessary, however I would not STAB A F’N DOG. Jesus what is going on in this world. I just do not understand. I would never sit there and watch someone stabbing a dog over and over again.. wtf where did our humanity go.

    • Because he had a knife and was crazy? Because it happened too fast? Maybe they did but he was on a mission he had already said he’d stab the dog and then he did, several times. Stop making excuses for him.

  • Rabbits

    “Reeves said Clara wasn’t viciously attacking the Yorkie, but nipping some loose skin on its neck. “Clara wasn’t clamped down on the dog,” she told the Times-Herald. Neither dog was moving.”

    If Clara was “nipping” her neck, then why was the yorkie transferred to an emergency vet for blood clotting issues in her ear? And if Clara “wasn’t clamped down,” why did neither the air horn nor hose used by the Petsmart employee get Clara to release, nor the kick issued by the small dog’s owner? Why could no one get Clara separated from this little dog? If she were “just playing” it would have been simple – just grab Clara’s and yank her back.

    If Clara was innocent, why wasn’t the security camera footage released?

    Also, the shelter admitted Clara was dog aggressive.

    From the shelter’s Facebook page:

    “Clara does not show well at PetSmart … she is too excited by the activity and most people there already have multiple other pets. Clara initially needs a human-only family, once she has that she will need some training to become more dog tolerant.”

    • They took both dogs to the hospital to look them over. Only one died. The dog that was stabbed by the human.

      The human clearly went overboard. Read the article. He threatened the dog before anything happened. He continued stabbing even after the dog let go.

      He carried out his threat and killed a dog and they let him go.

  • I have a yorkia why didn’t he just pick up his dog then stab a dog

  • Samantha Jaeger

    You’re just as much of a piece of shit as that degenerate is then. Eat shit and die motherfucker

  • Another psycho animal torturer, he stabbed the dog repeatedly in front of dozens of people and the jury let him go free. Unbelievable.

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