A family in Tampa, Florida, learned the hard way that their pit bull mix, a dog named “Scarface” (because Florida), did not want to wear an ugly Christmas sweater.
A dog angered by an attempt to put a sweater on it attacked three family members, one seriously, in Tampa on Friday, police said.
So, of course, the police were called and they promptly shot and killed the vicious beast, right?
Animal Control and police responded, and Animal Control shot the dog with a tranquilizer gun.
Wait, a tranquilizer gun? Aren’t the cops supposed to fire their guns anytime a dog barks at them?
The dog got into the house, where there were two children in the back room. At that point, TPD officers deployed a bean bag gun and stun gun to subdue the dog.
Huh? Bean bag guns and stun guns? Cops are allowed to use those on a dog that has already attacked three people?
Eventually, the dog was captured by Animal Control by using a “catch pole.”
Wait, after you’ve captured the dog with a catch pole, cops didn’t then shoot it?
This family ought to be thankful as hell that Scarface is still alive. Too many times I’ve had to write up reports on police visiting people’s homes where the first thing the cops do is shoot and kill the family dog, even friendly, tail-wagging, little lap dogs.
The cases that make the evening news are the outliers. These are the cases where cops are called for an emergency, are chasing a suspect, or somehow became involved in a benign situation where a dog was involved. The horror of killing someone’s family pet juxtaposed against the routine call involved always pulls on the heartstrings and makes good TV.
But many of these dog shootings happen as police are serving a warrant on a drug case. Unless the warrant only turned up tiny amounts of pot, those cases don’t usually get the same kind of coverage, because the public feels little compassion for the drug user who police will tell us was guarding their illicit stash with a vicious killer pit bull (whether the dog is actually a pit bull or not, whether they were dealers or just users).
I know people who use and grow marijuana in the non-legal US Time Zones. Many of them have rehearsed “raid drill” protocols – like you’d teach your kids for a fire drill – where the first action is to secure the family pets so they won’t be killed by the SWAT team.
There are no official records kept by police as to how many humans they are shooting every year, so you know there are no records of how many canines they are shooting. Citizens who’ve taken up the task have estimated that cops kill a dog in America every 98 minutes.
Police may shoot your dog for every excuse from the legitimate cause of protecting their own and others’ safety from a truly vicious and uncontrollable dog to the sadistic cause of shooting it while tied up behind a fence or locked inside a cage because they can.
But whatever you do, don’t shoot one of their dogs. It is now a federal crime to harm a police dog or horse. One man in Ohio got sentenced to 34 years in prison for shooting a police K-9. That wasn’t nearly severe enough, apparently, so lawmakers in Ohio proposed raising the crime of killing a police dog from a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony. You know, because reacting in panic by shooting and killing a police dog that’s viciously tearing at your flesh is just like raping, kidnapping, or murdering a human being.
I’m not saying all cops are bad for shooting dogs. Indeed, there are situations where that level of violence is warranted. I’m just saying that level should be reserved for a dog that has already actually attacked the cop, not just one that is loose and barking. Postal workers manage to do their jobs without killing dogs, and they were bitten over 6,500 times in 2015. Are cops just more cowardly than mailmen?
See? There are some good cops out there who know how to deal with dogs. Officer Gomez was one of two at the Meridian, Idaho, police department to receive special training on how to deal with aggressive dogs – training the US Postal Service delivers to all its employees regularly.
Rarely do the families of victims of police canicide get any relief. In the most egregious cases there may be a financial settlement from the city, but usually the police acts are found to be “according to procedure” and the cop may have to face a bit of paid leave time at the worst.
But for all involved, even most of the cops who themselves love and/or own their own dogs, it is emotionally devastating. As someone who lost my own dog last month to an accident, I can attest to the grief being on par with losing a family member. It’s about time all police departments started offering training to their officers on how to deal with dogs.