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Unfriendly Fire
Must read: Report on police shootings of dogs.
Not the usual suspects. Police officers even shot a Chihuahua in the line of duty.

In his recent Daily Beast story, “Dogs in A Deadly Crossfire,” Radley Balko reports on an increase in media accounts “of police shooting the family pet—with a notable lack of remorse or disciplinary consequences.” Balko’s beat is police misconduct, with a special focus on paramilitary tactics. From what he sees, dogs are increasingly innocent victims of a war footing at PD’s around the country.

Obviously, the police need to protect themselves but incident reports suggest something out of control, including raids on the wrong homes where pets of bystanders are shot—even when step are taken to keep them away from the police. How about this example from Balko’s piece?

“Last year … a local news station in Oklahoma aired security-camera footage of a police officer pulling into driveway of dog owner Tammy Christopher—just to ask for directions. In the video, Christopher’s Wheaten terrier runs out from the house, and it’s difficult to tell whether the dog is charging the officer or bounding out to greet him. But the officer was on the dog’s property. And instead of merely getting back into his car, he pulled out his gun and shot the dog dead. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Balko asks the question: If dangerous dogs are so common, why does a spokesman from the United States Postal Service say that serious dog attacks on mail carriers are “vanishingly rare”? Maybe, in part, because postal workers are trained in how “to distract dogs with toys, subdue them with voice commands, or, at worst, incapacitate them with Mace.” Few police departments provide this same training (New York City is a notable exception). It suggests that this is an issue about which police really don’t care.

Also, Balko presents evidence that shooting a dog can create more problems than it solves. Grazed dogs can become angry; misfires can strike a person. And in one case, a police officer mistook shots at a dog for hostile fire and ended up killing an unarmed mother with her baby in her arms.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com


CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Kathrine Konetz... | July 22 2009 |

Obviously one hates to hear of anyone's dog being shot by a police officer, and it should never happen unless the officer's life is truly in danger. But my comment has more to do with the caption of the photo of the chihuahua that accompanies the piece. It says "Police officers EVEN shot a chihuahua in the line of duty". This strikes me as kind of an ironic thing to say, considering in another blog posted just a few days ago, we were asked to discuss the governor of New York's (apparently) vicious Maltese, who's already bitten two people. Anything that supports the idea that little dogs are excused for being vicious based on their size just perpetuates the breed specific hysteria that swirls around anything "pitbull". And it's a trap that we all can fall into easily. I mean, honestly, what are the chances that a chihuahua could do any real damage to a big, strapping police officer? However, little dogs who bite are just as much a menace as their larger counterparts and should be held just as accountable for their actions (or, their owners should be). The caption just struck me as reinforcing an idea that's run it's course. No disprespect meant.

Submitted by Sadie | July 26 2009 |

While you make a good point that even little dogs can be aggressive and dangerous, it does seem pretty unreasonable to shoot a chihuahua. Unless its foaming at the mouth or something, there really isn't any reason why an officer couldn't you know, call animal control in since they are actually trained to deal with aggressive animals. And the chihuahua in question was actually on his own porch when officers tried grab it. Yeah the dog did bite them but I think the bigger issue was really that animal control was never called to take care of it. If the police aren't going to be trained on appropriate and safe ways to contain a dog they have no business trying to do it when there are trained people who can.

But that's really the problem all around, regardless of the dog's size.

Submitted by Elaine Hursen | July 23 2009 |

The same disgusting trend is happening here!

My report: http://www.HelpZeus.org

Submitted by Jenny | July 25 2009 |

This sounds more like a Police problem thna a dog problem.

The Police Force of whichever State this is happening in needs a BIG shakeup.

Submitted by Lucy | August 8 2009 |

There was a time when police officers where there to serve and protect. It seems that time is over; ego and a war-like mind set have taken over. A few years ago a police officer pulled over a vehicle thinking it belonged to a felon. Instead, it was a family on vacation. The car door was open and their dog got out. It was standing on the side of the road doing nothing more than wagging it's tail when the officer shot it dead.

The senseless killing family pets, with no consequence to the offending officer, needs to be addressed on a national level, perhaps with a bill spearheaded by HSUS or the ASPCA. Whether the dog is large or small, killing someone's pet is wrong, unless it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the officer or bystanders.

Submitted by Jennifer Wright | November 18 2009 |

My dog Max was shot dead in our living room on Sept. 25th, 2009 by the Calhoun county sheriff's dept in Michigan. We can't get any news coverage though. Please help us get media coverage by applying pressure the the Calhoun County Sheriff's dept for answers. They are located in Battle Creek, MI.

Max was a wonderful Pitt Bull who loved his Bob the builder blanket and sunglasses.

In loving memory 04-01-04 - 09-25-09

Submitted by TorresCarrie29 | July 29 2012 |

Buildings are not very cheap and not everyone is able to buy it. But, credit loans are invented to aid different people in such situations.

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