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What can we learn when a police officer kills a dog?

April 19, 2012 15 comments

This past week two stories caught my attention just days apart.

Dangerous dogs are a quandary for police(Star Tribune, April 15, 2012)

Police Report to Wrong Address, Shoot Friendly Dog(Life With Dogs, April 17, 2012)

The first is a news article that appeared in my local paper on Sunday. It explored both the difficult position police officers find themselves in when there is a dog involved and a split-second decision is required. It also explored the danger that can arise for others when a police officer shoots a dog. It made for interesting reading to be sure. In fact, I had already planned on writing about it when the next story popped up on my Facebook page on Tuesday.

This story was a sad one and gave a brief synopsis of how an innocent dog was shot and killed by a police officer in Austin, Texas. The officer had been responding to domestic disturbance call, but unfortunately, had been given the wrong address. The dog and owner had been playing frisbee in the yard when the owner walked away to get something out of his truck and the officer intervened. He told the owner to put up his hands and as he did so the dog started to approach, barking at the officer. When the dog continued to approach and bark at the officer, he shot him.

I know for me, the second story struck an emotional chord. I couldn’t help but place myself in the owner’s shoes and not feel sad by what happened. Like many people, my dogs are my family. I can’t help but be upset. But, even feeling sad and angry about what happened in Austin, I couldn’t help but also wonder about the police officer.

I know that police officers are often put into highly charged, highly stressful situations, where a split second decision can be the difference between life and death, and in these type of situations, officers are often forced to take a more offensive (vs. defensive) position to prevent bodily harm. Is that what happened here? It sounds like it may have been the case. It doesn’t make the situation any less sad or make anyone any less angry, but it does make one wonder what I would do in the same circumstance.

As a dog owner, I was left wondering how I (and other dog owners) can prevent these types of situations from happening. How do we avoid situations in which officers feel the need to make that split second decision and shoot our dogs? How do we keep our dogs out of harms’ way?

While reading many of the stories in which a dog was shot by an officer, one main theme emerged. Can you guess what it was?

Read more…

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