The Topeka Police Department has shot 6 dogs to date in the last 2 years. Their first response is to use lethal force in retaining a canine, while that option should always be the last resort. No more families should have to suffer because their dog, who was acting like a dog, was shot by a police officer.
The Mayor, Police Chief and City Council of Topeka, Kansas must change their police department policies to emphasize non-lethal responses as the standard operating procedure when dealing with canines. Topeka police have been involved with the shooting of 6 canines in the last 2 years. The latest incident involved a German Shepard, Dallas, who was shot several times in his own front yard because the officer felt 'threatened' as the dog ran towards him. Any dog owner, along with all dog experts will testify that dogs 'rush/charge' excitedly to greet their owners and visitors. How such common behavior can be deemed aggressive and grounds for lethal force is downright appalling, and is happening at an alarming rate in Topeka. This clearly shows that the officers not only need canine behavior training, but a clear policy that encourages non-lethal dog handling techniques.
Dallas' story has recently been featured in Yahoo Voices "Doggie Dilemma" http://voices.yahoo.com/a-doggie-dilemma-11347270.html?cat=9#comments as a prime example of poor police policy:
'Quoting the Department of Justice Guidelines " Law enforcement officers are authorized to use deadly force only when it is reasonable and necessary to protect the officer or others from imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person." The kids playing outside and neighbors doing yard work should have been a clue that the barking dog was not terrorizing the neighborhood and non-lethal force should have attempted, if the officer indeed felt threatened. By firing 5-6 shots in a suburban neighborhood the officer posed a bigger threat than a dog "galloping playfully in his own yard".
'Policies that require only an officer "feel" threatened set a very low threshold for justifying the killing of dogs. These incidents not only jeopardize the lives of companion animals, but also undermine the reputation of law enforcement agencies in the community.'
'In relation to current US Judicial law when a law enforcement officer of representative of the government of official duty take the life of a domesticated pet in an unjustified use of force it is a violation of the 4th amendment of the US Bill of Rights. By taking the life of the animal, that animal was in fact seized by that officer.'
The ASPCA believes that most instances of police shootings of dogs are avoidable. The Force Continuum concept has been helpful in reducing unnecessary injuries to the public and professionals in encounters with potentially dangerous people. Law enforcement agencies are recognizing that similar benefits can be gained by applying this concept to encounters with potentially dangerous animals.
There are many steps that law enforcement agencies can take to prevent the needless killing of dogs and reduce the high risk of injuries to officers and the general public in such instances:
-Establish better communication between area law enforcement and animal care and control agencies, including sharing of information about addresses with histories of calls for violent offenses or dangerous animals and establishing procedures for enlisting assistance from these agencies in planning responses to situations where dogs are known or likely to be present
-Review existing policies and data on dog shootings and institute administrative review of all such shootings that includes an evaluation of their justification
-Provide officers with training in identifying and assessing potentially dangerous dogs, as well as instruction on how to use their existing equipment (e.g. baton, OC spray) more safely and effectively in situations with potentially dangerous dogs
-Provide officers with additional up-to-date equipment that can be used as an alternative to lethal force (e.g. catch poles, nets, etc.) and proper training on its use
- Enact a Force Continuum policy for encounters with dogs, similar to that for encounters with people, that stipulates an escalating scale of options in which lethal force is considered a last resort(1)
Dallas will not be returning to his family. Let's make sure this does not happen again to another poor innocent pet by adopting a new policy for standing operating procedure when officers deal with canines that incorporates a force continuum, with lethal force as a last resort.
(1)ASPCA: Position Statements on Law Enforcement Response to Potentially Dangerous Dogs http://www.aspca.org/About-Us/policy-positions/law-enforcement-response-to-potentially-dangerous-dogs