WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Police in Winston-Salem have charged a man with misdemeanor animal cruelty after he shot and killed a blind dog during an attack on Sunday.

Police say a woman was walking a yellow Labrador Retriever on a leash along Odenton Lane when an unleashed Yorkshire Terrier ran from its house out into the street.

The yellow lab, Preston, was blind and police say it started to bite the smaller dog.

Police say the terrier's owner, Rusty Hale, ran into the road and tried to end the fight but during his attempt, the lab bit Hale.

Police say Hale pulled out a gun and yelled at the woman to get back.

Hale then fired one shot, killing the lab, according to police.

The terrier also died from its injuries during the attack.

Now, both dog owners are going through their own pain and grief and they each have their own account of exactly how everything unfolded.

Hale is upset because his dog died and he feels bad about shooting Preston.

Preston's owner, Kalah Mueller, is heartbroken because she didn't get to say goodbye to her best friend.

"It was nice to have that companionship, to not be alone all the time," said Mueller. "He was my companion. He was my little lover boy. He meant the world to me."

Mueller wants justice.

"My dog was defending himself from an attack from another dog, his dog," said Mueller.

Mueller wasn't the one walking Preston when all this unfolded.

But she says her dog walker was walking Preston in the street when the Yorkie attacked.

She admits Preston bit Hale on the hand while he was trying to break up the fight.

But Mueller says Preston was just defending himself and didn't deserve to die.

"He was such a sweet boy," said Mueller. "And he definitely didn't deserve to be killed for getting attacked by another dog! There's no justification for him to pull a firearm and shoot Preston!"

Hale did not want to do an interview.

However, he talked to WFMY News 2 off camera about what happened.

His right thumb and his left index fingers are bandaged up from the bite he took from Preston.

Hale says Preston was using the bathroom in his yard when his Yorkie ran out after him.

Hale admits his dog should have been on a leash.

He says he really didn't want to use his gun.

In fact, Hale says he's an animal lover and wants to open a dog daycare center in Rural Hall with his wife.

But Hale says at the time, in the heat of the moment, he felt like using his gun was his only way to end the attack.

Hale says he was worried that Preston was going to attack him or his wife, who was also nearby.

Forsyth Animal Control is assisting the Winston-Salem Police Department with this investigation.

On Monday, investigating officers presented the facts of this case to the Forsyth County District Attorney, Jim O’Neill.

At the conclusion of his review, it was determined there was probable cause to charge Hale with

  • Misdemeanor Cruelty to Animals
  • Discharging a Firearm within the City Limits

Attorney Joel Oakley says the law isn't black and white, in these types of cases.

"All the facts get laid out and the person with a robe on is left with having to make the decision of whether a crime has been committed," said Oakley.

While Preston's owner is calling for justice, that decision really comes down to one thing.

Does the judge in the case believe Hale was justified when police say he shot the Labrador.

Anyone with any information regarding this incident or similar crimes is asked to call the Winston-Salem Police Department at 336-773-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 336-727-2800. En Espanol: (336) 728-3904