Every year in the U.S., over 10,000 dogs are shot by police. And some police departments turn gunning down dogs into a game. The police department in Battle Creek, MI, is one of those. According to testimony in a lawsuit filed after police shot and killed two dogs, Battle Creek police officers admitted having “an unofficial tally system wherein officers would keep a running list of the animals they shot by putting stickers on their lockers to ‘brag[ ]’ about it.”
Several officers testified that “it was very common that officers would talk about how many animals they shot” and that this was the rule, not the exception: “there were so many of them just bragging about it.”
Despite this, the Court of Appeal hearing the case ruled that officers have a right to kill dogs when executing search warrants even if the dogs only bark, don’t lunge, are standing in the basement with their bodies turned away from officers, or are lying on the ground bleeding profusely from previous gunshots.
According to the officers’ own testimony, the first dog he shot only moved a few inches. “After Officer Klein shot the first dog, the dog went through the kitchen and into the basement.” They found the dog lying down, “bleeding profusely [hiding] behind the furnace.” They fired a second shot to kill him.
“When the officers were halfway down the stairs, [a second] dog turned towards them and started barking again from the bottom of the stairs.” According to the Court, “The second dog was not moving towards the officers when they discovered her in the basement, but rather she was ‘just standing there,’ barking and was turned sideways to the officers.” She was killed with two gunshots.
It gets worse. The “owner” of the dog, who was not charged with any crime, was there and offered to restrain the dogs. Furthermore, Battle Creek officers are not given training on safe animal handling. By contrast, the police department in Kansas City, MO, reduced the shooting of dogs by 80% after officers were trained by a dog behaviorist and adopted new practices consistent with that training: https://goo.gl/1wP2e0 Similarly, Niagara County, NY, police use fire extinguishers instead of guns to repel dogs: “It’s very noisy and very cold. It tastes bad. But it doesn’t do any damage to the dog: “‘I’ve talked to many, many officers who have used fire extinguishers, and I have never heard of a case where they didn’t work’”: https://goo.gl/kDmgQH
Despite this and all evidence to the contrary, the court declined to find “deliberate indifference” by the Battle Creek Police Department or that it “ignored a history of abuse and was clearly on notice that the training in this particular area was deficient and likely to cause injury.”
In short, if your dog barks at a police officer serving a search warrant, he can be killed. If your dog moves a “few inches” he can be killed. If he has the audacity to slump to the ground and bleed from a prior gunshot wound, he can be killed. If officers turn killing dogs into a game in the process, no matter.
The case, Brown vs. Battle Creek Police Department, is here: https://goo.gl/cd7cHG
This does not appear to be an isolated incident. The Buffalo NY Police Department likes to shoot dogs, too. One of its officers — just one — has shot and killed more dogs than all New York City police officers — the entire New York City Police Department — combined in the same time period. While every officer who kills dogs claims the dogs are “aggressive” and argues that the shootings were justified based on fear of attack, a necropsy by the SPCA in one of those shootings contradicted the officer’s version of events that the dog was threatening at point blank range. And an exposé found innocent dogs being killed in front of families, including children, who have committed no crimes but were wrongly targeted based on the false claims of police “snitches” who are themselves criminals: https://goo.gl/kDmgQH
Dogs are family. And dogs have rights. And officers should be required to be trained on nonlethal means of dealing with dogs and to be held accountable when they fail. Doing so would be a win-win: for dogs and for officers.
(As a former prosecutor, training deputy for the local Sheriff’s Office, and Chief of Animal Control, I am not anti-police. But as with every other field, it is not the color of the uniform that matters, it is the character of the person wearing it.)