Dog Shot by Police: Is it Self-Defense or Animal Cruelty?

Commentary| Lately, it seems that the news is full of animal abuse cases. Everyone from the boy next door to Hollywood stars are being accused and/or convicted of animal cruelty. These people receive very little or no punishment for some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. The most shocking of these stories are the ones that involve animal cruelty alleged to have happened at the hands of the people we pay to protect us, police officers.

There have been at least three cases in Kentucky alone this year, where an animal was allegedly injured or killed at the hands of a police officer. Here are their stories.

Louisville, Kentucky:
In early April, 2011 a 6-year-old Doberman Pinscher was shot and killed by an officer in his own backyard. According to WLKY.com officers were chasing a suspect which led them into the backyard where the dog named Rocco lived with his family. WLKY.com reports that Rocco first attacked the suspect and then turned on the officers, thus leaving the officers no choice except to defend themselves by shooting Rocco. The officer involved wasn’t punished in this case, the department stood by his decision to shoot Rocco to protect himself and the suspect.

Shelby County, Kentucky:
In June, 2011 a Labrador retriever named Daisy was shot and killed in her backyard by a Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy. According to WDRB.com the deputy was responding to a burglar alarm when he came across Daisy in the backyard. The deputy claimed that Daisy was aggressive and was showing her teeth. He said there was no way for him to exit the fence without being mauled or killed, so he was forced to shoot Daisy, stating that he was protecting himself from danger. The Sheriff’s office decided that the deputy made the right decision to use a gun instead of a taser or pepper spay.

Owensboro, Kentucky:
In June, 2011 an unidentified dog was hit by a car and the Sheriff’s deputy that was to be its rescuer allegedly beat it in the head until he thought the dog was dead, then buried it. According to WHAS.com the dog was later found alive and was taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment. WLWT.com reports the deputy was suspended with pay until the Ohio county prosecutor decides if criminal charges are warranted. The status of the dog’s health is unknown at this time.

In the Shelby county case, the family involved was quoted by WDRB.com as saying, they wished there was a different way to handle cases that involve animals. The Sheriff responded by telling WDRB.com that officers do not typically receive training for these types of cases.

The question is, why aren’t law enforcement officers trained for situations like these? I firmly believe that an officer should not be allowed to shoot and kill a dog in its own backyard, for trying to protect itself, its family, and/or its family’s property. Many of these officers are equipped with a taser and/or pepper spray. They should be trained to use them in these cases and only use deadly force when those options fail.

Perhaps more importantly, why aren’t they held accountable? After all, if these dogs were K9 officers acting to protect their human partners, the offender could face a felony charge in many states. It’s my opinion that the way our justice system handles animal cruelty cases is appalling. Most of these offenders receive a slap on the wrist or are allowed to walk free. If the penalties for these crimes were more severe, people would think twice before harming an animal.

The justice system sees an animal as property. I and many people like me, do not. We see them as a part of our families, and like any member of our family we would go to great lengths to protect them. I believe lawmakers should do the same.