The latest report of what journalist Radley Balko calls “puppycide” comes from San Diego. At 5 a.m. Sunday, two police officers knocked on the door of Ian Anderson, waking up him and his Pit Bull, Burberry. The officers were responding to a call about a domestic disturbance; Anderson says that they were at the wrong house.
Burberry started barking when the cops knocked. When Anderson opened the door, the dog stopped barking and went outside to greet the officers. According to Anderson, and as seen on a surveillance video obtained by the Huffington Post, the first officer bent down and pet Burberry on the head. The second, however, reacted violently. “The other officer yelled and screamed at the dog for no reason to get inside. It startled the dog,” he told the San Diego NBC affiliate. “[The officer] jumped back, went this way, drew his weapon. Boom. Shot right in the head and he was done. He was dead.”
Burberry was more than just a pet; he was a registered service animal. Anderson credits Burberry with helping him deal with anxiety and depression caused by his father’s death in high school. He also made visits to children diagnosed with Down Syndrome and autism.
“My world’s destroyed,” he told the Huffington Post. “This dog was a part of me. It feels like a part of me died. I wish I could have taken the bullet instead of him. It could have been any of us, this cop was so trigger-happy. It could have been me that was shot.”
The San Diego Police Department’s only response so far has been a fairly standard statement that says, “The preservation of life is our top priority, and this includes the lives of animals. This incident is currently being investigated as any Officer Involved Shooting would be to assure proper procedures were followed. Any further comments prior to the completion of the investigation would simply be premature.” The officers involved in the shooting have yet to be identified.
But more can be done than just waiting for the results of an investigation. Anderson has set up a Facebook page about Burberry and the shooting, and an online petition has been started, calling upon San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and California Governor Jerry Brown to support legislation that would require police to be trained in how to interact with dogs. Activists are advocating for a similar law in Texas.
I think the idea behind the petition is a good one. As it points out in the text, most police departments don’t even get the amount of training that’s given to postal carriers in how to deal with dogs, even though police officers frequently encounter dogs on routine calls. In many departments, the standard to justify shooting a dog is only that the officer feels threatened, whether that’s a realistic assessment or not. As the ASPCA points out on its website: “Police rarely receive any training that would allow them to rapidly and realistically assess the degree of danger posed by a dog; nor are they routinely informed about or trained to use any of the wide variety of non-lethal tools and techniques available to them as alternatives to shooting.”
Both the ASPCA and the Humane Society offer free programs for police departments on alternative ways of dealing with dogs; unfortunately, not enough police departments avail themselves of the opportunity. In the meantime, we have too many police officers who seem to know only one solution when confronting a dog: Shoot it.
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