Monday, August 30, 2010

Cop Shoots Dog at Dog Park Revisited.

Since I learned of this story several days ago, I've thought a lot about it. I talked with my wife about it. Certainly I am all for law enforcement officers defending themselves, but there is something really disturbing here. Let me see if I can hash it out on The Dog Chronicles in a manner that makes some sense.

First, when anyone goes to a dog park there is an assumed risk involved. While one may argue that dogs in dog parks should always be under control, that's certainly not always the case-- in fact, that sort of the point of taking your dog there.

So there may be a tussle or two between animals. While such doggish behavior should be foreseen, it can't always be expected. In other words, who knows when it might happen. Unlike the Dog Whisperer, we can't always read the signals our dogs put out. So we're back to the assumed risk.

If your dog gets into it with another dog at the dog park, it is a civil matter unless the dog owners are fully aware of their animals' aggressive natures. In other words, if your dog has harmed other animals at the dog park before, or at any other time, then you shouldn't have your dog in the park. That doesn't seem to be the case here. Bear-Bear was well-behaved at this park in the past, and I would imagine the press or the cop's lawyers would have been all over the story of an out-of-control Bear-Bear.

Now, the cop in this story is apparently pleading self-defense, but that just doesn't wash. In this situation, he is a private citizen, even if he is a full-time police officer who carries a gun off-duty to protect the public and himself. A dog bite is a civil matter. This is not the story of a dog run amok at the dog park, biting children and other dogs. It is a story of rough play, and at most a civil matter, even if this officer were to be bit in the fight or rough play. A dog bite while breaking up a tussle is usually not a life-threatening situation. It is a risk always, but not a matter of life and death.

Let's take this a step further. Suppose this same cop attends a major league baseball game, armed as usual as is his right and duty as an officer of the law. Now suppose he arrives early, and during warm ups one of the ball players tosses a ball up into the stands. Let's say this cop gets hit with the baseball. Let's even say he gets hit with a foul ball during the course of the game. Can this cop pull out his gun and shoot the player who threw the baseball or who hit him with a foul ball? Of course not. Now, the player who tossed the ball into the stands may face civil liability for throwing a ball into the stands, and certainly the player at bat did not mean to hit this cop with the baseball. The cop assumed the risk when he attended the game that he might be hit by a foul ball. He is not allowed to shoot the batter or even the player who threw the ball into the stands in order to either protect the public or himself. I think it's much the same at the dog park.

Who draws a gun and kills an animal at a dog park? A child could have been shot, or another adult, or another dog. And who says you can protect your dog with deadly force? The attack of Bear-Bear, if you choose to deem it an attack can't be considered a deliberate or deadly matter. Would this same officer, off-duty, be allowed to shoot the owner of Bear-Bear if the owner punched him?

Nothing makes sense about all this.

Deadly force used by anyone when there is very little chance of a lethal injury occurring is an extreme over-reaction.

There was no crime that day, only a potential civil injury. This was no organized dog fight. It was not deliberate. And no one was threatening the cop. Why the gun?

This cop was trigger happy. If he is willing to pull a gun in a dog park, he might over-react in the line of duty and then a human will get shot. There's just no justification for his actions. He should face at least a long suspension and a lawsuit.

"There are a lot of risks associated with dog parks: your dog may get into a fight, pick up a disease from another dog or eat something he shouldn't. But one thing no one expects to happen at the dog park is for their dog to get shot.

Monday evening, Rachel Rettaliata's brother took her 3-year-old rescued Siberian Husky, Bear-Bear, to the Quail Run Community Dog Park in Severn, Maryland. Bear-Bear was well-known and loved around the park. A federal police officer (who has not been identified due to internet threats against him) showed up with his German Shepherd on a leash and the two dogs started playing. Apparently the play turned rough and the officer asked Bear-Bear's guardian to call him off. But before he could get to Bear-Bear, the officer pulled out a gun and shot the dog. Bear-Bear died a few hours later."

The shooting death of a Siberian Husky in a dog park Monday by a an off-duty federal cop is sparking all sorts of outrage.

In addition to calls and letters to public officials, someone has started a Facebook protest page. Here is the link to the page.

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