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What Would You Do If a Cop Shot Your Dog?

A California family mourns the loss of their dog, killed by police in their own backyard. They're taking action.

 |  Sep 26th 2012  |   53 Contributions


During my years at Dogster, I've written about too many dogs who have been shot and killed during police operations at people’s houses. Many of these dogs had been doing nothing other than hanging out at home or in the backyard.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong species.

Some dogs just got in the way, maybe startling an officer during a tense situation. Others were protecting the property, led by an instinct to keep those they love safe. A bullet put an end to that.

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Could your dog get shot for barking at a police officer at the wrong time? Barking dog photo by Shutterstock

These often aren’t just the more stereotypically tough breeds. A few have even been Labradors. Those stories really get me, because that’s the genre of dog Jake is. And if someone suddenly came bursting into our yard, he’d definitely bark and put up a stink. With a law-enforcement officer who doesn’t understand the way around this (hint: Labs love food and/or treats), it could end badly. Fortunately, we have a backyard, and cops don’t generally go into backyards ... right?

I don’t want to paint police with one dark coating. Many police officers are huge dog lovers. They treat these situations with the utmost care. Police training these days spends a lot of time dealing with dog encounters.

But a few go too far when it comes to dogs. They pull the trigger first, ask questions later.

The other day, a story at Examiner.com caught my eye because it said Brad Pitt had been shot by police. Images of Widow Angelina and their distraught kids vanished as I read on and realized that Brad was the name of a beloved family dog in Riverside, CA.

Brad was a Pit Bull. His owners, Luis and Lindsey Gonzalez-Rivera, were home with their young children when a Riverside Police Department officer went into their backyard to secure the perimeter created because police were serving a warrant on a homicide suspect two houses away. It’s standard practice to guard against a fleeing suspect.

The two sides conflict as to the details of Brad’s shooting. The officer maintains he was inside the fenced yard when he had to defend himself against the dog. The family says they were told the officer shot Brad from the other side of their fence. But it doesn’t really matter. Either way, Brad was shot and killed and should not have been. No pepper spray, no Tasers, no knocks on the door to ask the family to get Brad inside.

The Gonzalez family is ripped up by the loss of Brad. The children, especially their little boy, considered the dog a big brother. “A simple ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it when it’s a member of the family,” Luis Gonzalez told the Riverside Press Democrat in the video below.

Many others in their situation have mourned and let it go, taking no legal action. But this family is not taking this lightly. They’re suing for $75,000: $5,000 for Brad and $70,000 in actual damages.

I used to think we had a pretty safe setup against police taking drastic measures against our affable but vocal-when-necessary Lab. After all, who’d storm a backyard? We could always pop a barking Jake into the garage that adjoins our front entry room if need be. Besides, our family doesn’t do the things that make cops storm into houses. But it’s pretty alarming that Brad was in his backyard and that the police weren’t after anyone in his house.

I’m glad to see the family taking action. They clearly treasure their dog. Maybe if more people sued for this kind of killing, police with itchy trigger fingers during dog encounters would think twice before ending the life of a beloved family pet.

It’s clear that you don’t have to be a criminal to have this kind of thing happen to you. If, heaven forbid, police did something like this to your dog, would you take action? What would you do?

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