Police Shoot Dogs, Who Is Policing the Police?

by Mary Haight on December 29, 2012

Police Shoot Dogs, He Shot The Puppy and similar statements are headlining news reports across the country — an uptick in inappropriate police response to non-threatening dogs, or are more reporters paying attention to this story? Are these incidents indicative of dangerous police behavior trends that have been begging attention? This has yet to be determined and there is no way to know right now, but anecdotal evidence is not only heartbreaking, it’s scary.

Chicago Police Shoot Dogs

In Chicago on December 1st, a 7-month-old miniature Bull Terrier puppy followed his person, Al Phillips, out of their backyard when Al went to check on a policeman he was told was writing a parking ticket in front of his house. The dog was sniffing a tree and wagging his tail a good car’s-length away from the policeman according to witness consensus, reported by Steve Dale and ABC channel 7 news. Al, who is 75, did not hear any warning from the officer – some witnesses said the officer stated “the dog is loose.” Then he shot at the puppy – twice.

Police back-up arrived, the neighbors had come running out of their houses to be met with the site of the dog running down the block, bleeding badly. No police officers offered help. The dog was rushed to the emergency room and was saved. Meanwhile, the officer who shot at the dog was reported to have calmly returned to filling out the boxes on his ticket. This is not the end of the completely unacceptable reaction to a puppy who was paying no attention to him.

Two days after the incident, a sergeant and a lieutenant showed up at the Phillips door. No, not to apologize. To intimidate  him perhaps, since he talked to the press about the “good man” who shot his puppy. When Al and his wife Barbara were not willing to promise no more press, they were issued another ticket for having the dog off-leash.

Steve Dale reported that at first the Chicago police department denied ever being there. Fortunately for the family (and the rest of us), there was a news crew there who got it on tape. Is *anyone* training these people as to who they serve and protect? Apparently not, comes the answer from no less than the Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy: “…we don’t have to wait to get bit by a dog, we don’t have to wait to get shot at before we take steps to protect ourselves…” Where have I heard that outrageous idea before? Shoot first, just in case?

Well citizens of Chicago, you have been warned. The police can do as they like, because according to their Superintendent the *new* mandate is to protect themselves at your expense. And never mind the apparently outdated directive not to shoot into a crowd, because that is precisely what that officer did at Al Phillips home.

I know not all police are on board with a shoot first policy, and much of this comes down to familiarity with dogs, knowing how to read their body language, and yes, respecting citizens enough to allow them to put their dogs away. At the same time,  “cover” should not be given to aberrant behavior from their ranks. The officer who kept writing the ticket needs professional help — I am not alone in my opinion.

Just the other day I heard and then read another report about an incident in a suburb of Chicago, Hazelcrest, where a non-threatening dog was killed by an officer in pursuit of an escaped convict. But this Wild West behavior is not unique to Chicago.

Excessive Force Reports Against Non-Aggressive Dogs

Here are a few of the recent reports of police shooting dogs from a handful of States.

There is no National database of dogs shot by police, and therefore we don’t know trends from State to State. We have cameras on thousands of street corners, it’s the 21st century, and this kind of data is tailored for computing. Surely a Foundation could fund an appropriate group to design, implement, and maintain such a program, while we push for mandated nationwide police training programs. We have, in fact, a good example of dog policy change that maybe a useful model to implement everywhere.

Austin, Texas Law Enforcement Policy Changes, Protecting Dogs from Excessive Force

John Woestendieck of ohmidog! reported the dog policy change made in Austin, Texas, following a dog shooting incident. The police shot a non-aggressive dog in April 2012 when entering the wrong house on a domestic dispute call. Officials responded in July with important policy changes, among them, training for cadets and online training before shifts for current officers. That and other changes like increased scrutiny of deadly force and review of such actions by the entire chain of command were the right actions to take, and it’s only the beginning for this dog-friendly town. The community backlash started the police department on a search for benchmarks in this area from cities around the country. That’s the type of response we all hope for.

I wonder how long it will take for something useful to be done nationally to stop the use of excessive force against dogs. Do you know if changes have been made in your town?

 

25 comments
Ray Colon
Ray Colon

Hi Mary,

 

I have noticed headlines like these, but I can't say if they've appeared more frequently of late. Amid all of the daily headlines about people-shootings, an uptick in dog-shooting cases could be missed.

 

I'm not a person who is comfortable around dogs, so I can attest to feeling an increased level of trepidation when I encounter an unleashed one. Their owners usually laugh off my nervous response to their dog's advances. To the uninitiated, it can be terrifying. None of this is said to excuse the behavior that you've documented. I offer it only as a look from the other side.

 

You've assembled more than enough examples of abuse of force to warrant a closer look. Any mandate that begins with "shoot first" guarantees unfortunate outcomes. Hopefully, the positive steps that have been taken in Austin will be adopted throughout the country.

 

I arrived via today's post by @PeterFaur.

Bellaslove
Bellaslove

Can anyone advise me PLEASE  My dog (Blue Heller little boy Jake six yr old) and I were attacked six hours ago.  walking through neighborhood, stopped two black dogs loose, went up to owners door and all the sudden I heard little Jake screaming injured scream.  I ran over to where Jake was and to my horror Jake was being attacked by her big black dog.  I tried to get the dog off Jake, but couldn't, during which time I was thrown to the ground by the dog and it continued to attack Jake.  I had witnesses, got her info.  She said she didnt see any wounds on Jake, and told me her dog had gotten the short end of the stick and had injuries.  But when I asked her that I needed to see her dog who was inside by then, she refused to let me see him and offered to drive us home.  30 minutes after I got home, I saw red on jakes neck, as he is black and white, the fur was red.  I looked and found he had a puncture wound.  Not very long, it didn't bleed any more.  But I did text her about seeing if that big black dog had his shots, she said yes and that she was taking the dog to the vets in the morning.  I don't know what to do, I am bruised up but will be fine.  Got Jake five months ago, tags not on him, he skin lotion owner gave me, shows a VET in San Antonio Tx.  The lady who owned the dog asked me then, does jake need to go to the Vet?  I looked up all kinds of sites on this after it happened, and seems they say that on the neck area, could be worse inside, just cant see the injuries, need a Vet.  It was a tooth puncture, it has stopped bleeding and only bleed short time then started to scab over.  He's of course, my love and my heart.  MY CONCERN IS:  I don't have any dog tags for him or shot records with me.  I am concerned if Jake could be hurt inside, I wouldn't know by looking at him, I guess..so if Jake was hurt then if I don't file a police report, then maybe I would not get him treated or if GOD FORBID anything worse was to happen and I needed to take suit, then I would be not able to, because i let too much time pass or something.  PLEASE HELP I am moving in the morning and packing tonight some, but my email is above PLEASE ANY HELP I SO MUCH APPRECIATE THANK YOU

My email address is:  bellathedogsworld@gmail.com

, VICKI  and Jake  IN AUSTIN TEXAS

DogsShotbyPolice
DogsShotbyPolice

Thank you for covering this topic.  I happen to believe that this has been going on all along, based on my own experience.  However social media have made it possible to publicize it broadly, and other media are beginning to pay more attention and not simply publishing police press releases about these cases. There are at least two Facebook pages that follow these cases closely:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Policeman-Dont-Shoot-My-Dog/131560703558002, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dogs-Shot-by-Police/188434097845629 (I am the moderator of Dogs Shot by Police and co-moderator of Mr. Policeman Dont Shoot My Dog.)  The following blog was created by a group of people who have had their dogs shot by law enforcement.  http://cops-shooting-dogs.blogspot.com/p/fb-cause-pages.html  There are others as well, probably too many to list.

 

I agree with your comment that "much of this comes down to familiarity with dogs, knowing how to read their body language, and yes, respecting citizens enough to allow them to put their dogs away." I also agree with Jeffrey Justice's comment that that Austin training program is not a good model to follow.  I understand that it is a one-hour online course.  Another dog named Papa was shot under what seemed to be circumstances as unjustifiable as the shooting of Cisco some months after the new program had gone into   A better model is the more extensive "live" training program created in Fort Worth in the aftermath of Lily's shooting:   http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/10/24/4361678/fort-worth-officers-receive-training.html  There is another good resource for law enforcement:  http://cops.usdoj.gov/Publications/e051116358_Dog-Incidents-508.pdf 

 

When I was sixteen, a small-town Texas sheriff shot a young Cocker Spaniel to death under the window of our chemistry classroom because she was out of her yard and at the school.  That was 1971.  I don't believe that particular deputy would do anything different today, but I know that we would at least be able to embarrass him and his town with publicity.  The dog's family could bring a lawsuit and win, and perhaps the next dog would be a bit safer. 

JeffreyJustice
JeffreyJustice

Sorry, but I don't think the Austin PD training program is very serious or even close to an appropriate measure in response to the obscene killing of the dog named Cisco. I've corresponded with Austin PD and I can tell you there is no remorse. None! There have been a few instances of change- Fort Worth Texas for one- however in general-No one is policing the police.

sue2
sue2

Excellent post!  I've wondered the same thing (more incidents or more reporting), but, either way, have never been able to gather my thoughts together about it.  Torn between rage, incomprehension, and heartache, I delete the drafts.  It seems to me there's been an uptick of violence towards animals in our society and it is hardly a good sign that law enforcement seems to be right there in the thick of the trend.

dogsupplynetwk
dogsupplynetwk

"Austin, Texas Law Enforcement Policy Changes, Protecting Dogs from Excessive Force" its good to hear that. We should protect our animals and we should implement the animal rights. I hope this step will protect our pets.

jetbarbieandbender
jetbarbieandbender

why are these cops such dog-haters? is there some kind of media anti-bull-breed campaign going on? Are they just being used for target practice? Do the police not have to fill out paperwork every time they discharge their firearm? In Australia they have to explain why they used their firearm every time they do so. I would think that a cop who shot a non-aggressive dog would be called to account for that. If it happened to one of my dogs they would certainly find themselves on the news and all over the internet as well!

jgandb
jgandb

With all the gun-related violence in this country you'd hope that the police would be the first to advocate less use of firearms...Sadly you'd be wrong...That old West gunslinger mentality is alive and well in our police departments and it's a frightening thing

QuiVuong
QuiVuong

I agree with your characterization of disgraceful, Mary, with respect to the behavior on the part of not only the policeman in question,  but also the mentality and the hypocrisy of the leadership behind those who swore an oath to "protect and serve."  We are supposed to protect and serve our fellow law abiding citizens first, not ourselves. Otherwise, we are just thugs with guns. 

haroldgardner
haroldgardner

That is completely horrible.  So little regard for life,  and also for the danger they might be creating for others in the area.  

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @Ray Colon Hi Ray, thanks for speaking up here! I understand your fear of unleashed dogs and I never appreciate owners who think so little of their dogs' lives that they would subject them to the possibility of harm, or to inflicting harm out of fear. Even leashed dogs don't care for unleashed dogs (very generally speaking). People can be thoughtless.

 

In January, according to a FB group who tracks these cases, there were as many shootings of dogs as there were days the first half of January. I'll have to check that to see if they were all actually unjustified.

 

I've been meaning to go to Peter Faur's blog so thank you for the reminder!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @jkemp Thanks for that Jack! I've got another report I need to look at also -- the information here is piling up ;) Appreciate you speaking up and sharing.

JeffreyJustice
JeffreyJustice

 @jkemp Right you are sir. The DOJ report is very well-researched and would seem to be a good model. But please name just one police department that utilizes that document to implement policy? Most police departments don't know of its exisistence, or care. The common police doctrine is: Anything that gets in our way, impedes us or threatens us can be eliminated by lethal force-civil rights be damned!. And that threat can be real, or just imagined. It is usually a video of the encounter that catches the police in the lie. Example the recent Chloe case in Commerce City CO. However there are several landmark lawsuits that prevailed against the police-old school: no hi-tech-just a great lawyer. Example: City of San Jose vs. Hells Angels dog shooting. Look that one up- 3 municpal goverments sued and then settled for 1.8 million because of reckless police behaviour. The police don't always win no matter how much they tell you they do...

 

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @DogsShotbyPolice I agree social media has been key to advancing public knowledge of many very serious wrongs done to dogs and animals in general. The voices of activists can reach around the world and have the power to push for change, but we do have to keep looking for and offering solutions. Thanks so much for including your reference facebook pages along with the Fort Worth police training model. and DOJ publication. This is information that deserves it's own post.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @JeffreyJustice Thanks for your take on this - new policies arising from negative public sentiment can seem to be substantive, only to be found lacking not much later. A start is better than nothing, but that start must come quickly up to public expectations.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @sue2 It is frustrating, I agree Sue, especially when leadership broadcasts and supports the policy of "we don't have to wait to be bit." It is reactionary thinking at its worst and dangerous as public policy. Thanks for adding your voice to this conversation!

JeffreyJustice
JeffreyJustice

 @dogsupplynetwk

 The Austin PD training is insignificant. That police force is in denial over the reckless and obscene killing of the dog Cisco- watch the police dash cam-very disturbing. I do feel that Ft. Worth Texas PD  has taken the lead on officer training, and Arlington, TX is also following that lead with some effort. For the most part though- the police will back the cop 100%, no matter how immoral and disgusting the dog shooting is, or how many innocent civilians were endangered by flying bullets.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @jetbarbieandbender I don't think cops generally hate dogs, though I would bet they get bit by many dogs when handcuffing anyone in the family. When breaking into a home looking for a perpetrator, the threatening mode (and adrenaline) of entry causes many dogs to attack. Tasers are a much better option than bullets and have been for some time. That's why I like to Austin TX model...much more accountability. Thanks for joining the conversation =) Hope this gets fixed fast!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @jgandb This is especially egregious due to the non-aggressive, non-threatening situations where they shoot the dog anyway. I believe this is training policemen to disregard life where no threat exists. It becomes a convenience to kill the dog. Not good for the police, not good for citizens.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @QuiVuong Well said, Qui! Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation =)

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @haroldgardner Yes, it's really bad when they take shots - they richochet...there was a mother and her baby carriage walking right across the street...and what an unbelievable shock for the dog owner to see such a thing happen. It is disgraceful, among a whole stream of other words I can think of. Thanks for speaking up =)

JeffreyJustice
JeffreyJustice

 @MaryEHaight  @jetbarbieandbender

 The courts have ruled that police must make other arrangements for dogs during search and seizures other than just killing them. (City of San Jose vs. Hells Angles (2006).

Previous post:

Next post: