Animal Advocates

Half of Police Shots Fired Are Aimed At Dogs, Study Says

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Why are dogs – our best friends, our companions, our children – such a threat that police shoot dogs every 98 minutes; when not one single police officer in recorded history has ever been killed by a dog?

A recent federal court ruling that granted police the authority to shoot and kill a dog that either moves or barks when an officer enters the dog’s home has dog owners around the country fearing for the safety and security of their own furry family members – and rightfully so.

Every year, somewhere between several hundred and several thousand animals, mostly dogs, are killed by police. However, because these incidents are often under-reported, kept quiet, go un-penalized , and because a central database does not exist to track them, an accurate number is impossible to establish.

Laurel Matthews, a supervisory program specialist with the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (DOJ COPS) office, calls fatal police vs. dogs encounters an “epidemic” and estimates that 25 to 30 pet dogs are killed each day by law enforcement officers.

According to a study performed by the National Canine Research Council, up to half of the intentional shootings by police involve dogs.

Buddy, an 11-year old Husky/Lab was in his fenced backyard when police responded to the wrong address and entered the yard unannounced.

Buddy, an 11-year old Husky/Lab was in his fenced backyard when police responded to the wrong address and entered the yard unannounced. The senior dog was shot and killed.

Sometimes, the animals have been injured and are put out of their misery. Sometimes, they are involved in an attack or are deemed vicious and killed for reasons of public or officer safety. But most often, they are victims of misunderstanding, prejudice, or simple convenience, according to animal-rights and behavior experts.

While a small percentage of police on dog shootings are considered justified, a majority of cases are not.

Jack, a 7-pound Chihuahua mix, was shot 3 times on his own front porch.

Jack, a 7-pound Chihuahua mix, was shot 3 times on his own front porch.

Stockton, California police, responding to a code enforcement violation – at the wrong address – shot a family’s 50-pound Rottweiler-mix, Daisy, after the friendly dog came running to greet the visitors to her home. The bullet ricocheted and struck Kari Bailey, 23, and her 5-year-old daughter Hailey who were standing only a few feet away.

In 2013, The Bullock family’s dog, Jack, was shot and killed by Blue Ash, Ohio police. When the Bullocks returned home from a family member’s funeral, they found blood and three bullets on their front porch — along with a note to call the Blue Ash Police Department about their dog. The Bullocks learned that Jack had gotten out of the backyard when two officers who tried to catch him ended up shooting and killing him right on the family’s front porch. Jack was a 7-pound Chihuahua-mix.

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Just take a look at some more examples compiled by Cops Shooting Dogs:

Patricia McConnell of Fishers, Indiana, was taking Reese, a 7-year-old, 18-pound Rat terrier mix, out for a late-night potty break. Reese was harnessed and on a retractable leash, but as she bounded ahead around a corner, she saw a neighbor and started to bark. The neighbor was Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal William “Buzz” Brown. Reese was able to bark only two times before the deputy shot the leashed dog twice.

A Spartanburg, South Carolina a sheriff’s deputy shot dead an 8-year-old shepherd mix named Diamond who was tied to the front porch. “Why did you shoot my dog?” the owner pleaded. The officer’s response: “She tried to bite me.” Diamond was at the end of her restraint when she was shot, according to the dog’s owner.

One night in April 2011, police in Camden, New Jersey sprayed a neighborhood with gunfire to take down a pit bull puppy named Capone — even as one lone police officer pleaded, “Don’t shoot him!” Witnesses say more than 30 bullets were fired, ricocheting across vehicles and piercing a home.

Rosie the Newfoundland

When Rosie the Newfoundland escaped from her yard, police chased her for several blocks and TASED her twice before finally shooting her with an assault rifle.

A Newfoundland named Rosie who had escaped from her home was Tased multiple times before being executed by officers in Des Moines, Washington. A dashboard video of the long ordeal shows officers wondering aloud what to do with the dog if they catch her — then they conclude, “We should just shoot [her].” They chase her down to finish the job. Another officer hollers “Nice!” when Rosie is shot. A witness says the officers high-fived one another afterward.

A Gulfport, Mississippi police officer, investigating a possible break-in at the house next door, fired five or six times at an 11-year-old dog named Melmo in the dog’s own backyard. Melmo was on a chain that ended “about 30 feet away” from the officer, according to the dog’s owner.

 

Police fired 6 times at Kincaid as his owner was just inches away and reaching for his harness. They had entered his backyard unannounced.

Police fired 6 times at Kincaid as his owner was just inches away and reaching for his harness. They had entered his backyard unannounced.

On New Year’s Day of 2013, a pit bull mix named Kincaid was barking at a man running from police who had trespassed into his yard. Baltimore police shot six times at the dog; half the shots missed Kincaid and his owner (who was reaching for the dog’s harness) by only inches. Kincaid died on the scene.

A Miniature Bull terrier puppy named Colonel, who had just wandered out of his home in a bustling Chicago neighborhoodwas shot twice by an officer who happened to be out front writing a parking ticket. Multiple witnesses say the puppy was simply sniffing a tree about a car-length away from the police officer who shot him. Colonel is lucky to be alive after five hours of emergency surgery.

Baby Girl, a pit bull mix who was so sweet that one of her best friends was a rabbit, was taken to a dog park on Staten Island, New York when a fight broke out between two other dogs. Baby Girl was not involved in the fight. While those other dogs were being separated, the police were called. When they arrived, witnesses say Baby Girl got scared and ran toward the woods. Officers fired shots that would ultimately take her life.

Baby Girl, seen here alongside her canine brother and her best friend, a rabbit, just months before she was gunned down by police at a dog park.

Given how often police officers encounter pets, one would think training for handling dogs would be an obvious necessity. With between 37 and 47% of the U.S. population sharing their homes with dogs, police can expect to encounter a family dog about as often as they can expect not to. Yet, police are largely untrained in how to appropriately handle a dog encounter.

An officer untrained in recognizing a dog’s body language, for example, could easily mistake a bounding dog for a charging one, a nervous or frightened dog for an angry one, or an aggressive dog from one that’s merely territorial. Groups like the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, along with hundreds of individual dog trainers and behaviorists, offer free training to police departments, but both organizations say few departments take them up on the offer.

In stark contrast to the growing problem of police on dog shootings is the U.S. Postal Service, another government organization whose employees regularly come into contact with pets.

U.S. Postal workers encounter dogs frequently, yet bites and attacks are very rare, in large part due to extensive and mandatory dog encounter training that mail delivery persons undertake.

U.S. Postal workers encounter dogs frequently, yet bites and attacks are very rare, in large part due to extensive and mandatory dog encounter training that mail delivery persons undertake.

A Postal Service spokesman said in a 2009 interview that serious dog attacks on mail carriers are extremely rare. The vast difference is likely because postal workers are annually shown a two-hour video and given further training on “how to distract dogs with toys, subdue them with voice commands, or, at worst, incapacitate them with Mace.”

In 2011, the Department of Justice published a 46-page police training and information guide, “The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters,” (below) through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The report, funded by a grant from the NCRC and developed by the University of Illinois Center for Public Safety and Justice, aims to dispel myths about dogs and dog bites and provide resources to help police develop nonlethal strategies for officer-dog encounters.

COPS Director Bernard Melekian, a former Pasadena, California police chief and K-9 officer, wrote in the preface to the report that the number of dogs killed by law enforcement is on the rise and that “officers must advance beyond automatically using their weapons when encountered by a dog.”

Five years after the DOJ study was published, police on dog shootings are reaching an all-time high.

Still not convinced there’s a problem?

Many believe police on dog shootings are largely justified, that vicious or dangerous dogs posing and immediate threat are most often being gunned down. Whether based on the public’s general trust that officers inherently value our dogs’ lives, or if it’s a result of good PR, post-incident federal rulings like the one in December, or a broad lack of charges against police involved in killing dogs, the belief that most dog shootings are justifiable is grossly misguided.

Are most dog shootings justifiable? What are police doing to stop the growing problem of police on dog shootings? CLICK NEXT

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Glenn J. Gooding

    Jul 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    From some of the accounts given here, it appears that the cops are trigger happy and feel they have the law on their side and must kill something. The killing of a 7 pound dog on the porch illustrates the point. I too am leery of any encounter with the police. They have the Wyatt Earp syndrome that gives them the impression of being the almighty and powerful and can throw their weight around as they please and it will be to your detriment to challenge them in any form or fashion, especially verbally or any form of non compliance to their orders. So, watch your animals and watch yourself.

  2. Rosanne Leccese

    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Absolutely appalling & utterly inexcusable. Police seem altogether cowardly in their dealings with canines! How terrifying can a lapdog get?! The footage of some of these incidents is utterly heartlessly brutal & criminally irresponsible. Not only should these abusive cowards be automatically fired but they should be brought to justice and appropriately penalized. Penalty being where I suspect it would really hurt…$$

  3. Jacqueline

    May 26, 2017 at 6:09 am

    What's the point of all these situations explaining all the details? These police officers don't give a damn. Such ignorants twads for all I know. Shoot an animal or person which one is easier? In pursuit of and an attack by a human criminal are totally different approach. I hope Americans animal lovers will fight for a right for those voiceless and defenseless.

  4. Kimberly

    Jan 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    There has to be a better way of dealing with this issue. We have our dogs to let us know if there is a stranger around. If we did that to their police dogs we would go to jail.
    Their are animal right activists out there that can fight this. We can go to the capitol to find out how we can get this on a bill and vote this so called permission out. They use bean bags on people if a dog attacks use that or a tranquilizer to calm it. Shooting first is insane. First comes dogs it would suck if we were next with police.

  5. Vigalante

    Jan 7, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Shoot my dog, I would kill at least 2 cops.

  6. Susan Murray

    Jan 6, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    I have felt so bad for police dogs who are killed in the apprehension of a criminal that I have given to organizations who supply protective vests for the dogs. But now to read this I don’t know if I still will. I have two very small dogs, one who is old and I’ll, and one who is 4 and barks at anyone who comes to the door before hopping up on his two back legs to greet you. The thought that someone would shoot them for this natural response is appalling and would literally destroy me!

  7. Gary marek

    Jan 6, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Most cops couldn’t fight there way out of a wet paper bag if it wasn’t for them hiding behind their badge and having the privilege of shooting at whatever they care to

  8. Mary

    Jan 4, 2017 at 9:04 am

    This is outrageous. Of course a dog is going to move or bark. Haven’t they heard the expression a barking dog doesn’t bite. They need to be trained to read dog body language and behavior. Don’t come into my home and shoot my dog because he moves or barks. Friendly dogs move and bark too. This is disgusting. We are turning into a police state where anything they do is okay.

  9. Laurie Mann

    Jan 4, 2017 at 8:39 am

    You didn’t mention any of the numerous dogs shot in and around Buffalo,NY. Seems to be an epidemic (of mainly one shooter)going on.

  10. april

    Jan 3, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Many police officers have a low IQ and no interpersonal skills. It can be very dangerous to all to call the police. I have grown wary of them, and I am just a little white girl. I feel sorry for the black man they are at risk. And to kill a dog too? Really I think their guns should be taken away and they only get a bottle of mace. Many are irresponsible and have no empathy.

  11. Dan Stewart

    Jan 3, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    If someone shoots my dog for barking, the dude best be looking over his shoulder the rest of my life.

    • Deby

      Jan 5, 2017 at 4:50 am

      I totally agree! They better learn to sleep with one eye open!!

  12. Caitlin Waverly

    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    The difference between the police & the prison population is a uniform, a badge, a state-issued weapon & the right to shoot to kill anything that moves……..with impunity.
    Neither the government, the courts, legislators not cops are for the people.

  13. Marie Elesarke

    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    this is crazy. I HAVE A 10-LB. SILKY TERRIER WHO IS A BARKER. SHOULD THE POLICE ENTER MY HOUSE
    BECAUSE THEY HAVE AN INCORRECT ADDRESS, ETC., THIS LAW INDICATES THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO SHOOT MY LITTLE
    BABY. I CANT BELIEVE YOU IDIOTS WHO MAKE THIS ILLOGICAL LAW. WE ALL ARE AWARE THAT THE POLICE
    ARE GUN CRAZY AND SOME WILL SHOOT ANYTHING THAT MOVES.

  14. Jim Conroy

    Jan 3, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    As a police officer I find this ruling despicable and disgusting. This ruling is absurd. Dogs are shot for no reason by police – often. It is disgraceful that no one holds them accountable and now these clowns on this court in Michigan are going to allow it to happen even more. Wake up you clueless bozos.

  15. Ronnie Dispain

    Jan 3, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Police are to trigger happy.

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