Marshall County must change their Law Enforcement policies to emphasize non-lethal responses as the standard operating procedure when dealing with canines. Marshall County deputies have been involved in more than one dog related shooting this year. The latest incident involving our Bulldog, Penny, who was shot in her own yard because the officer felt 'threatened' as the dog ran around him barking. 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. This clearly shows that the officers not only need canine behavior training, but a clear policy that encourages non-lethal dog handling techniques.
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 his weapon in front of my 3 yr old child and in my neighborhood the officer posed a bigger threat than a dog "chewing on a bone in her 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.'
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)
Penny will not be returning to her 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