Dog Chapman to Sheriff: I Was Covering YOUR Ass!

7/21/2011 2:20 PM PDT

Dog Chapman to Sheriff: I Was Covering YOUR Ass!

Dog Chapman is lashing back at claims he doused a fugitive in a dangerous amount of pepper spray -- telling us, he followed standard safety procedure ... and nabbed a DANGEROUS criminal in the process.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey blasted the bounty hunter in a statement earlier today -- claiming Dog wantonly dumped the fugitive in his office, without properly decontaminating him first ... putting his staffers and several bystanders in danger.

But sources close to Dog tell TMZ, not only did Dog follow standard decontamination procedure -- hosing the guy down and changing his shirt before handing him over to cops -- he performed a CRUCIAL civil service ... and cops should be grateful.

We're told it took three whole days to track down the fugitive in question -- a dangerous ex-con -- who then allegedly tried to make one last run for it by jacking someone's car ... at which point Dog's team pepperballed him.

Sources close to Dog tell us, the bounty hunter was blindsided by the sheriff's comments -- because as far as he knew, the two parted on good terms.