When Dogs Are Involved, Cops Shoot First, Ask Questions Later


I don’t even know where to begin with this; I am crying as I type. I got a phone call last night from Denise; I told you about Denise and her partner, Cherylle, in What Happens to Your Dog When You Divorce. It turns out that divorce wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Gus, their Afghan hound.

I was on the sofa finishing off some Chinese takeout and watching one of my favorite shows, Supernatural, on Netfix. Then the phone rang. I don’t always pick up the phone, because I am very much of the belief that I have it for my convenience and no one else’s. But Denise hardly ever phones me, so I figured it was probably an emergency.

It was.

“Ash,” she sobbed, “Gus… oh my God, Gus… I don’t know what to do, I…. I just—“

“Denise, what?

“He’s been shot. He’s dead.”

What Happened?

It took a while to get the facts out of Denise. She was beside herself, and understandably so. As near as I can piece it together, it went down something like this.

Denise awoke in the middle of the night to banging on her door. “Open, up, police!” Well what the hell? Denise had never been in trouble with the law.  She threw on her robe and opened the door. Gus was behind her, and understandably concerned about all the noise and apparent conflict that was going on, so he was barking.

Supercop was standing there in full body armor, with four other cops behind him similarly outfitted. He said, “I’m giving you 10 seconds to control that dog, and if you don’t, I’ll shoot him.”

Denise scrabbled for Gus’s leash, which was on a hook behind the door.  Within probably five seconds, she had it clipped onto his collar. Then the cop fired. And fired again. And again. Denise says she could feel the heat of the bullets as they passed her, ripped into Gus’s body and killed him.

So what in the name of all that is holy happened here? From my perspective, it’s an over-zealous cop with no concept of how to deal with people.

Oh, and by the way: the cops were in the wrong house. They were looking for a drug dealer two doors down. They had the wrong address.

The police have apologized to Denise, and that’s wonderful, because their apology brought Gus back to life, not. Do I sound bitter? You bet I am.

How Does This Happen?

I actually thought that what happened to Denise and Gus was a one-off. I could not have been more wrong. I started wondering about whether this was an isolated incident, and discovered, to my horror, that it most definitely is not. My research led me to several articles and posts about dogs killed by police officers, and it happens a lot more often than you might think.

John Whitehead is a lawyer and writer with the Rutherford Institute, and he has much to say about the murder of dogs by over-zealous police officers. He also relates such occurrences to our interest in the United States election, and suggests that we have lost sight of the everyday issues. He points out, for instance, that three years ago, we were all totally outraged by the shooting of a black teenager, who was unarmed, in Ferguson, Missouri. At the time, local cops came out in full force to quell protesters. He suggests that not much has changed, and attributes that to cops being outfitted with military-style gear, and having the idea that they are somehow better and more powerful than the people they are supposed to protect. We are, he says, no longer worried about corrupt government and bad cops; we just suck up the police violence and take it as our new way of living.

Whitehead also suggests that we are desensitized because with increased video surveillance, we can see everything that is going on, so, we see violence and trauma, and we just go “meh.” We don’t see police violence and react to it with horror the way we once did.

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Am I Overreacting?

If you think I am, then I’d ask you to take a look at the following stories. Then you can tell me if I’m overreacting. I’m pretty damn sure I’m not.

Many of these facts and stories have been pulled from John Whitehead’s article. Others come from different sources, and a few even come from stories that people have personally told me.

1. Every 98 minutes, a cop shoots a dog.

This is based on statistics from the Department of Justice. And that’s actually not all that bad when you compare it with statistics from https://puppycidedb.com/, which suggest that it is much, much higher. Puppycide estimates that it’s more like 500 dogs in any given day, or 182,000 per year.

2. In one of five cases, when a family pet was shot, a child was also in the line of fire.

Yes, this has actually happened. And you might be interested to know as well that “dangerous” dogs are not the only ones shot. Well, duh, you just have to consider Gus, don’t you?

3. Police officers claim that they need to use “deadly force” when often, they don’t.

I mean, come on; one incident of the need for “deadly force” actually involved a five-pound Chihuahua. It’s a pretty poor cop who can’t get the better of a five-pound dog! Other dogs killed because the cop was supposedly “in fear for his life” have included a little Jack Russell Terrier and a 12-pound mini dachshund.

4. The cops can shoot your dog for NO REASON.

Police routinely shoot family pets, and there are no consequences at all. You might get an apology, as Denise did, or you might get nothing at all, and your dog will still be dead.

Are You as Ticked Off as I Am?

Essentially, police can shoot your dog for any reason or no reason at all, and I simply can’t accept that. Where in hell do they get off, shooting family pets?

Are you totally bent out of shape yet? If you’re not, keep reading.

1. Seven

Seven was a Saint Bernard owned by a 12-year-old boy in Connecticut. The cops got a bad tip, and entered the property without a warrant. Seven was playing with his boy, and the cops shot him.

2. Spike

Spike was a pit bull, weighing about 70 pounds. Cops were called to his apartment building. Surveillance footage shows Spike, wagging his tail and non-aggressively approaching the police officer who shot him to death.

3. Arzy

Arzy was a lab/Newfoundland mix. When he was shot, he was secured on a four-foot leash. Independent witnesses report that he was not aggressive before or during the time of the shooting. Can you say “murder”?

4. Payton and Chase

Can you imagine invading the home of your town’s mayor and shooting his dogs to death? Apparently, cops in Berwyn Heights, Maryland, could.  Payton and Chase were black labs, and the cops made a mistake with a raid: they invaded the mayor’s house. Payton was shot four times, and Chase was shot twice. In fact, two of the shots that killed Chase were delivered as he was trying to run away. Mayor Cheye Calvo was handcuffed, and also interrogated for several hours as he sat amidst the bodies of his dead dogs and pools of blood.

Think This Doesn’t Happen All That Much?

You would be wrong. There are tons of websites and Facebook groups that are devoted to publicizing shootings of dogs by cops who are not worthy of the uniform. There are a ton of reports!

There are websites, community action organizations and Facebook groups that do nothing but publicize dog shootings by police, and you can bet that there are a lot of them. One filmmaker, Andrea B. Scott, has even put together a documentary to raise awareness about the epidemic.

What Can We Do?

Well, obviously, we have to stand up and scream loud and long. This cannot be allowed to happen. Family dogs are not a menace to police, and I do not believe for one single minute that cops are so afraid for their safety that they have to shoot dogs. I mean, come on, guys! You are supposed to be trained to resolve issues. You are supposed to care about your community. You are supposed to be our guardians, not the guys who kill our family pets because you have no idea how to deal with situations!

Are dogs a menace to police? I doubt it. I mean, come on! My letter carrier tells me that on his route, he encounters dogs that might present a bit of a problem. You know what he does? He gives them treats! He doesn’t shoot them! In fact, he tells me that the US Postal Service actually offers training to their workers on how to deal with dogs. Wouldn’t you think that the police service could do the same?

Now, back to the cops. Police officers are assumed to need to deal with certain risks, and they are supposed to know how to deescalate a confrontation. I’m supposed to have trust in a cop that can’t handle a five-pound Chihuahua? Oh, sure!

Listen, cops are supposed to assume risks. They’re supposed to deescalate situations. They’re supposed to take, oh, I dunno, maybe more than half-a-second to decide whether they really need to open fire on a dog! Unless, of course it’s a vicious toy poodle or teacup Yorkie, in which case, give ‘er! Jerks.

Too Many Over-Armed Cops

Listen, when five cops barge into your home wearing full body armor the way they did with Denise, I’m sorry, but that’s overkill. These guys have gone well beyond being cops; they actually think they’re soldiers with all that armor, and they think they’re somehow better and more powerful than we are. They’re not interested in deescalating or solving whatever problem is going on; they’re in a pissing contest. It is very simply, and pardon my language, “My dick is bigger than yours.” And when they take that attitude, dogs die.

It’s a paramilitary focus, plain and simple, and that’s what allows people to break into your home and kill your dog. And it’s also what can lead us to forced blood draws, invasive surveillance, routine strip searches and more. No one really wants to live like this, and ultimately, the way the cops treat your dog is going to be the way that they will treat you.

What Can We Do?

Maybe not much in the general scheme of things. But there are states that are enacting laws to mandate further training for cops, to teach them that their job is to deescalate, not to force conflict. Cops are being shown ways of taking control of a situation without resorting to violence – without killing your dog. They are learning (but not nearly quickly enough) that dogs are family.

I think that cops should have to take these courses regularly. That’s the only way that the bloodshed will end. And courts should deal very, very harshly with renegade cops who think that it is okay to shoot a dog just because it is in the way. All too often, cops get geared up with all manner of gear and get the idea that they are soldiers. They are not. They are law enforcement officers who are supposed to be protecting us and our family members – which also includes our dogs.

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The Final Word

There are good cops and bad cops. Bad cops shot Denise’s dog. I ache for her. Sometimes, though, a cop isn’t good or bad; he’s just clueless and too ready to take the easy way. Police forces need to educate their people so that good dogs don’t end up dead. I don’t think I can add much more than that.