Police & Dogs – Doing Our Part

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Photo of Ray by Justyne Moore

Yesterday the news had a story of yet another lethal interaction between a dog and police. It joins the list of other troubling incidents that have happened in the past year. Including:

  • Arfie, a black lab waiting in a van for his person to return.  He was shot in the head, through a window, by an officer who claimed he was a lunging, dangerous pit bull terrier.
  • A pet Shar-Pei who got loose and nipped a would-be rescuer.  The dog was captured by law enforcement and was being restrained with two catch-poles.  The dog was collared, licensed and wearing an id tag.  Instead of impounding the dog and contacting the owner, one of the officers heartlessly slit the dog’s throat with a carpet knife.
  • A two year old Weimaraner who was shot in his own fenced in yard by an officer who entered the yard looking for a child who had been reported missing.
  • The pit bull who was shot an officer entered his fenced yard with a police dog.  The dog challenged the canine officer and was shot by the handler.

Many dogs who are killed are exhibiting normal canine behavior.  It is instinctively for dogs to protect their home, yard and vehicle.  That is a job they have been bred to do for centuries.  And being a normal dog shouldn’t be a death sentence.

I am adamantly in support of law enforcement.  These men and women put their lives on the line each and every day.   That just makes it even more horrifying every time I see a story about a companion dog shot by police officers.  Animal activists estimate that a dog is killed by law enforcement every 98 minutes.  That comes to more than 14 every single day.  This is not a trend we can afford to ignore.

There are circumstances that make it more likely that your dog could be killed by an officer in the line of duty:

  • If the officer perceives the dog to be a threat to himself, another officer, or any other human.
  • If the dog is an actual threat and is behaving in an aggressive manner: snarling, snapping, lunging
  • If the dog is running unleashed, and approaches police or runs up to a canine officer
  • If your dog is overly protective of you or other family members
  • If your dog is considered a dangerous breed, such as Doberman, Shepherd, Rottie or Pit Bull Terrier type dog.

Animal welfare organizations continue to press for increased animal behavior training for all law enforcement officers, but as far as I know, very few states actually mandate it by law (Tennessee and Colorado are two examples). Specialized training to learn how to work with dogs safely, and alternative equipment such as rabies poles and pepper spray, are the two things that can easily reduced the number of dogs killed out of hand.

As owners, we have responsibility to help keep our dogs safe.  There are things we can do to decrease the chance that our dogs are killed in the heat of the moment.

  • If there is an emergency at your home, crate or otherwise contain your dog before or immediately after calling 911
  • Train your dog so that he or she will respond to you in a situation where law enforcement or emergency personnel are present.
  • Never allow your dog off leash or to run at large
  • Keep fences, gates and latches in your yard in good repair.  Frequently walk your yard to make sure your dog isn’t working on tunneling out.
  • Don’t leave your dog outside unattended.
  • Make sure your house is clearly numbered.  This will decrease the chance that the police enter the wrong house when serving a warrant.
  • If your dog is one that can be considered a “dangerous breed” take your protection steps up an additional notch.  These are the dogs who are most likely to be killed for perceived threatening behavior.
  • If you see a dog running at large, call Animal Control, not the police.

No one can fault a police officer who is forced to shoot a dog who is a danger to people.   Humans need to take precedence over an aggressive dog who is attacking.  But it is time that we do something about an issue that is causing a divide between authorities and animal lovers. Let’s all do our part to keep unfortunate accidents from happening.  Train and contain your dog.  Teach him to respond to commands instantly.  And respectfully work with your city and state government to get appropriate training in place for all first responders.

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4 thoughts on “Police & Dogs – Doing Our Part

  1. I agree that we as owners need to take care of basic things for our pets, however, this has become and out of control situations with law enforcement. It is ridiculous that a dog in a fenced and secure yard has the threat of being killed for being in its own yard. If you look at any #Freezedontshoot (FDS) site you will see that it is beyond out of control. We should be able to walk our dogs, whatever the breed, without being terrified that a cop is going to see the dog as a threat. They have shot 13 year old dogs who stand wagging their tail. They have shot dogs inside the home INSIDE a crate. They have killed them in front of children, have given a man a heart attack by doing the same, and even killed a woman trying to shoot their dog. In a large number of cases people have actually begged law enforcement to let them put their dogs away when they show up unannounced and they refused. Mailmen encounter dogs daily, many that are fully aggressive dogs, they do not go shooting them up. Its gotten to the point that people are scared just to own a dog. Even to have them near children. There is no trust anywhere. I am not bashing all of law enforcement. My family has been law enforcement and military. I respect the badge, but in my opinion they have no right to damage my property, because that how the law sees dogs. We have in various posts in FDS addressed that we as owners need to take precautions and I agree wholeheartedly that there are things we can do but at the end of the day, these officers are meant to serve and protect, not shoot first and ask questions later.

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  2. I know for a fact several cops shot dogs that were no where near a threat. Such as a cocker spaniel sitting on a porch with her 5yr old owner, or the pregnant pit bull that was in labor no threat in her own back yard. The dog in utah as cops entered wrong address plus the cop didn’t even stick around to explain or apologize, the police are becoming a bigger threat than the gang bangers out there

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    1. There are problem police officers, as there are problem dogs and dog owners. But we get nothing accomplished if we become polarized on this issue. The law views dogs as property. In order to begin changing that perception, we need to work with the authorities, not against them. I know it is frustrating…….but we need to be proactive.

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