Christine Hibbard, CTC, CPDT
Maybe it’s social networking, all the yahoo group memberships, Facebook and Twitter but about once a week someone sends me a story about police officers shooting a dog. I even saw that Pat Miller wrote an article about this in the most recent edition of Whole Dog Journal. Then I got an email from one of my clients and my heart sank. On Sunday, November 7th 2010, Rosie, a two year old Newfoundland got loose in her neighborhood in Des Moines, WA. Police officers were dispatched. According to the police report (of which I have a copy), the officers yelled at the dog to go home, attempted to use a catch pole, used their Taser on the dog twice and finally shot the dog four times with a Colt M-4. For interested readers, the local KOMO News station has broadcasted/published several items on Rosie’s story.
The Newfoundland Club of Seattle organized a memorial for Rosie a week after her shooting (thank you to all of the attendees and photographers for allowing me to use your photographs in this post). The club also started a petition drive which was signed by 4,000 people requesting an investigation into this shooting. On Thursday, November 18th 2010 the Mayor of Des Moines stated in a public council meeting that the police report in this shooting will be reviewed by two outside agencies and that the King County prosecutor will also be reviewing the report for criminal culpability. President of the Newfoundland Club of Seattle, Richard Jack, read a statement at the city council meeting asking for accountability but also asking for police officer training: “The City needs to establish a clear animal behavior training program for all its officers. The City needs to provide its officers with the tools and information to fulfill the responsibilities placed on them.”
When I decided I wanted to write about this issue, I realized I knew nothing about what training police officers receive in handling animals, wild or domestic so I called my respected colleague Steve White to see if he could help educate me on this issue. Steve is an experienced police officer and internationally renowned dog trainer. Steve was a wealth of information about which the public might not be aware. He explained to me that officers are called into three general situations in which they encounter dogs:
- High Risk Warrant Service: This is a situation where the police are going to execute a warrant against people for which an arrest warrant has been issued. These operations are often dangerous but they’re highly planned. If officers think they might encounter dogs, they plan accordingly and can involve Animal Care and Control if available.
- Standard Police Call: This is a situation where someone calls the police for one reason or another like domestic violence, robbery, etc. In these cases, officers often don’t know until they show up whether there will be dogs on the premises.
- Loose Dog or other Animal Nuisance Call: This is the situation in which Rosie found herself. Somehow she’d gotten off her property and was running loose in the neighborhood.
What you might notice about these three scenarios is that only the dogs owned by suspected criminals benefit from pre-planning. Rosie’s shooting happened on a Sunday afternoon and Animal Care and Control is a Monday through Friday, nine to five operation in most cities/counties. In Rosie’s case, police sent photographs of Rosie to an off duty Animal Care and Control officer who didn’t recognize the dog so police proceeded on their own, without any further support from AC&C.
Steve also explained to me that many, if not most, officers are issued and trained to use the following weapons: gun, pepper spray, baton, bean-bag shotguns and Taser, among others. When police are called into any situation, they are trained to protect the public and themselves. They are not trained in reading dog behavior or on handling loose dogs properly. It’s somewhat ironic to me that the King County Prosecutor will be investigating Rosie’s shooting since our own King County Executive, Dow Constantine abolished King County’s Animal Care and Control function. I wrote an article about this, King County “getting out of the shelter business”. Has Constantine reversed himself on this again and King County is still providing Animal Care and Control services?
Police officers are not adequately trained on this growing segment of their duties and Animal Care and Control is underfunded. Obviously, part of the answer to this complex problem is money, money for training and money for expanding the role of Animal Care and Control. Sadly, we’re facing budget short falls in every state, city and county in the country so additional funding is a difficult proposition. The other problem is that institutional change is usually slow, very slow to take hold. Training for the Oakland, CA Police Department for handling dogs and wildlife is under development. We’ll see what affect this training has once it’s underway with officers on the streets.
So, if you’re a dog owner, what is your take away from all of this? Keep your dogs safely contained in your home, on a leash or in your sight at all times. We recommend that you never leave your dog outside unattended, even if you have a solid fence and certainly not if you have an invisible fence (see my article Invisible Fences: Not a Recommended Solution). Too many things can go wrong if your dogs are left outside and you’re not home to respond.
I’m not in your area, but I find your blog to be insightful and smartly written. The problem of dogs and law enforcement affects us all.
It’s interesting that the older I get, the more cautious I get about my dogs. When I was younger, I used to leave my dog in my fenced yard without a care. Now, I’m inclined to leave them in the house when I go out. If I have to leave them in the yard because of the length of time I’ll be gone, I leave them inside covered dog runs, in a fenced yard, with locks on the gates. But I still worry.
In instances where I have had to call the police to my home, I’ve also gone to great lengths to lock up my dogs before their arrival, even though my dogs are friendly, happy, social animals. They are large, “muscle breed” dogs, and I worry that their behavior, however innocuous, could be misinterpreted.
I appreciate law enforcement officers, the risks they take, and the security they provide us, but I do believe there needs to be specific education targeting interaction between the police and companion animals. Until there is, I think our pet dogs will continue to be at potential risk of unforseen and even lethal encounters.
What a tragic ending for someone’s beautiful pet.
Even-handed and level-headed as always. Nicely done.
Thanks for your coverage of this issue. I blogged about it a few times. While I agree that dog owners should do all they possibly can to ensure their pets don’t escape, I think the greater responsibility is on the police to be trained to handle these situations properly, although I don’t know if more police training would have helped Rosie. I believe the police acted purposefully and maliciously. After being tased, Rosie ran into a yard with a gated fence, and the owner shut the gate to keep Rosie there until someone came to claim her. When the police arrived they walked in the gate and shot her 4 times even though she was completely contained and the home owner said she had not been aggressive when she arrive. Some reports said the policeman who shot her laughed afterward and make a joke about killing her. This is unacceptable behavior, and I believe the policeman who made the decision to shoot Rosie should be fired.
Sondra Boone says
My dog was shot be the Fair Oaks Ranch, TX police department in my own yard. It is a long story, but I’ll give to short of it. We put our house on watch because we had a threat from the pool man towards our 11 year old Yellow lab. I was to go out of town so my husband told the police to keep an eye on our house, explaining to them about the dog situation. I was back in town several days, which they knew because they came to the house and spoke to me. I went to pick our son up from school about 2:15 and got a call from my husband probably about 2:30 saying that our dog had been shot. We live on 3 acres and have a fenced area around the back of the house with the pool. The police had come to the house and said they saw something “Suspicious” about the water coming from our pool. They neglected coming to the door to see if anyone was home and went into the yard to “investigate”. Apparently my yellow lab “Panco” came towards them and Bit one of the officers and they shot him. They said in the yard but the only blood I could find was on my back porch. How could my 11 year old lab get shot in my own back yard or porch on three acres? He survived but had to have surgery, he died a year later almost to the day. What if I and the kids had been home? What if the bullet traveled through the house? They deny any wrong doing but there is something wrong with this picture. There are also several other instances of the gun happy cops in this neighborhood.
Christine Hibbard says
Another police dog shooting, this one is the Atlanta Police Department who shot a Golden Retriever: https://abcnews.go.com/US/family-dog-fatally-shot-police-officer/story?id=12444180&tqkw=ROSAdsOnly&tqshow=&page=1
Denise LaChance says
A couple of us are trying to gather all of these incidents together in hopes of raising awareness and perhaps of galvanizing change. I have gathered some on my facebook page Dogs Shot by Police. There is another page Mr Policeman Don’t Shoot My Dog that is collecting these cases as well.
Christine Hibbard says
@Denise LaChance, Steve White is a 20 year veteran of the Seattle Police Department and well respected positive reinforcement based trainer. He’s got a Facebook page titled Law Enforcement Engaging Dogs Safely. Steve is working on the education front trying to educate law enforcement on reading dog body language and proper response. I will check out the two FB pages you recommend. Thank you for reading Behind the Behavior!
Teressa Fowler says
This article is well written with both views of the issue being explained. While it is true that police officers have training in some animal control, it is not their duty or responsibility to handle loose animals.
If a person has any kind of animal, it is their responsibility to make sure that they are secured and well taken care of. A yard in fence is no longer adequate, especially when it comes to dogs. It is my own opinion that more education should be required before an animal is sold from pet stores, breeders, and adopted from animal shelters. If your animal gets loose, the owner should be held accountable for any damage or harm to another pet or human being.
This is not a new issue but an ongoing “epidemic” of lack of control and guidelines in regards to pet ownership and goes even further to larger animals. Until something is done legislature wise, tragic stories like this one will continue.
Yes, people should be responsible for their animals. But things happen – dogs can get scared (or a noise, etc) and perform feats of athleticism and stupidity never before imagined (ie dogs runs _through_ a window or fence, dog scales 8ft fence, etc).
But in the case that an animal gets out, there should be some safe assumption that the police will not just kill him except in the case that the dog is a clear danger to other people or animals.
In the case of the newfoundland, one of the earlier comments says that the police tracked down the dog, found that it was contained, then shot it anyways. That is not the fault of the owner, but of a man that really should not be trusted with authority or guns.
Kara Gilmore says
The Department of Justice just issued an outstanding new resource to help police officers who encounter dogs in the line of duty. Please share:
Christine Hibbard says
Thank you for providing a link to this important resource Kara!
This happens all the time, please support our site and sign our petition for change https://www.change.org/petitions/the-i-am-boozer-project
Christine Hibbard says
This is an effort to require police officers be trained in animal behavior and non-violent control.
Few people anywhere believe in psychological testing less than I do. In the case of police, they should all be forced into it. Failures should be terminated and never hired elsewhere as police or security guards. In such event, I suggest we’d see over half the current occupation members terminated. It is that bad. Another way to approach the problem of abuse of power is for high schools to maintain records of bullies and trouble makers. Upon application to gun carrying, powers of arrest occupations, deny them. There are statutes providing for 5 year prison terms for killing a police dog. The same penalty should apply against police when police cannot justify shooting someone’s pet. The determination of justification cannot be left in the hands of police, the conflict of interest is impossibly severe. In the Leatherman case (Google) after cops butchered 2 family pets, they loitered for a time in the victims yard, “laughing, joking, enjoying their seemingly limitless power.” We don’t need Mongols as policemen, Joseph Stalins as police chiefs, or Diocletians as judges excusing demonized cops who shoot dogs for the thrill of unlimited power. Mail carriers have far more contact with dogs and very successfully deal with the occasional problem dog and very rarely get hurt.
Christine Hibbard says
Thank you for your thoughtful comments on this important problem Charles. Sadly, mail carriers, UPS/FedEx employees are all given training by Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists on managing dogs and strategies for not being bitten. Police officers receive ZERO training on reading dog body language and dog behavior. Steve White who is an amazing dog training and veteran of the Seattle Police department is trying to change this problem. He has developed a curriculum for police departments but these departments are using budget shortfalls as a reason for not getting their people trained.
Thank you for this website, I came home yesterday to find out that my dog- a bull terrier named Roy, got out . I had no idea when I came home that the 5 police cars and about 8 officers that were down my street had just shot my dog in the head because he got out and got in a fight with another dog (a pit bull) Although the pit bull was removed and was safe behind a fence, and my dog did not bite not one person ( I use that term lightly) there, and animal control was on the way , they shot him in the head. He was a sweet , wonderful dog and he loved people. My house feels empty , and my heart is broken.
It’s more than a matter of lack of training. When heartless witch prickers** are hired, and actually preferred, for this occupation, oppression will take place. I was walking my dog and several cops accused me of narcotics use, I was told to take a follow the ballpoint pen without moving my head test, I thought, he’s going to continue till he can say I failed. I has a vision of them laughing at me the next morning with me in jail, saying my dog had been “euthanized by mistake.” It isn’t the job of police to implicate innocent people in crimes, but they are acting in that role. Police massacring pets is a symptom of a larger issue. We are at risk of losing the freedoms the Founding Fathers died to win for us. The enemy is as much in police stations as in penitentiaries. Too bad men are more concerned about football games and beer than their basic liberties, and women more interested in Doctor Oz than in their family’s basic civil rights. **A witch pricker in 17th century England penetrated the spine or kidneys of women with needles—the rule was if the woman did not cry out, she was declared not guilty of witchcraft. This is the attitude of the police towards the public.
Cynthia Merriam says
Sharing triumphant news from Colorado and offering hope for similar dog protections in YOUR state:
Remembering Colorado dogs Chloe, Ziggy, Ava, Kupa and others:
(see attached Word doc called “Dogs Shot by Police” for links to 200+ cases of dogs shot by police and a lot more related information.)
Reference Colorado Senate Bill 13-226 (AKA “The K9 protection act)
YOU MAY FEEL FREE TO FORWARD THIS EMAIL.
GREAT NEWS TERRY:
Our Dog Protection Act (Senate Bill 226) just passed the House Third Reading (Final House vote) by a vote of 64-0. I can’t thank you enough for all your leadership, hard work and help in assisting us in passing this bill. We will contact you as soon as we know whether the Governor will be signing our bill; and if so, when and where.
With much respect and appreciation, David
Senator David Balmer
Colorado State Capitol
Republican, Arapahoe County
BE AS GOOD AS YOUR DOG
This bill passed BOTH house and Senate – endorsed by BOTH republicans and democrats 100% UNOPPOSED IN ALL 4 SESSIONS! The final step before it becomes LAW is Governor Hickenlooper’s signature!!!!!! There is talk that he may sign it into law at the annual Furry Scurry down town on May 4th – there is also talk that he may not be allowed to for security reasons (Boston Bombing ect) in that case he will sign it into law at the capitol building, Either way come out and see the HISTORIC signing – WE (Colorado) Will be the FIRST state to MANDATE Law Enforcement Officers to specifically work around K9 encounters! Police are trained to deal with persons under the influence of narcotics and alcohol and from my research they routinely encounter one or the other on 1 out of 10 calls – Statistically Police encounter a K9 on 1 in 3 calls but MOST are not trained to interpret body language or how to define a aggressive action – This bill will provide that training! It truly is a fantastic day today!
FORT WORTH, TEXAS POLICE TRAINING FOR DOG ENCOUNTERS (TRAINER JIM OSORIO – TRAINING DONE IN CONNECTION WITH SHOOTING OF LILY)