Puppycide in Lincoln

September 22, 2008 at 2:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Normally I’m pretty positive toward LPD. Today, however, I’m feeling a bit negative. An unnamed officer shot and killed a dog yesterday morning:

Police say the dog was growling and barking, threatening the officer.

The officer, whose name was not released Sunday, went to the home at 37th and W streets to question [a suspect] about a felony theft.

Lincoln Police Capt. David Beggs said the officer stepped around a corner of the house just after 11 a.m., and the brown pit bull approached, growling and barking. When the dog was 10 feet away and coming closer, Beggs said, the officer fired two shots.

One shot hit and wounded the dog, which Smith said was near death around 8 p.m. Sunday at Pitt’s Veterinary Hospital. ...

[The owner] said the dog was in the front yard, which has no fence, when it approached the officer. He said the dog was greeting the officer in a friendly manner, not growling and barking.

There are several problems with this story. First, there’s the neighbor’s description of the dog as “like a lamb”. That obviously doesn’t mean the dog was behaving “lamb-like” at the time of the incident, but it does at least offer some evidence that the animal was not inherently violent.

(Aside: I grew up next door to a dog that was “like a lamb”, only for it to be euthanized after suddenly attacking one of the neighbor’s sons. I’m very aware that there are no guarantees in canine behavior.)

Passive animal or not, I’m much more concerned that the officer’s reaction to the dog’s approach was to shoot it rather than to back away. Note that Capt. Beggs’ description of the incident doesn’t say the dog was rushing the officer, nor does Beggs’ description indicate that the officer attempted to or could not ease the situation non-violently. What did the officer try before pulling his weapon? Are Lincoln’s police officers trained in animal management? If so, did the officer properly follow his training?

If the officer had to be on the property—if, for example, a domestic assault were in active progress inside—this incident would be easy to justify. But no crime was in progress, no warrant was being served, and as far as the information we have indicates, the officer did not have to be on the property at that moment. Was there really anything preventing the officer from stepping back and finding another solution (calling out the owner to tie up the dog or asking for help from Animal Control, to name two)? If so, Capt. Beggs should have said so in his statement.

The available information is somewhat fuzzy so I’m not going to go so far as to accuse the officer of being in the wrong. But generally speaking, when a police department knows it is 100% correct, it uses language that clearly supports its case. In this situation, I would expect to read that the dog was “running” or “lunging” at the officer, or maybe the officer tried to back away but the yard was cluttered and the officer stumbled, putting him in a bad situation. Instead, we are only told that the dog was “growling and barking”, and that it was “coming closer”. None of those activities is a canine capital offense.

Again, I’m not saying the officer was wrong. I’ve been around nice dogs and mean dogs, but I wasn’t around this dog at this time. All I ask is that LPD treat this and similar incidents very seriously. A police officer’s instincts should guide him to use the least amount of force possible, but as much force as necessary. Did that happen here?

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The Comments

Dave K September 22, 2008 at 3:31pm

The only way I wouldn’t side with LPD on this one is if it turned out that the cop shot the dog while it was sleeping behind a locked fence.  I can’t help but think of the dog along O Street just west of Calvary Cemetery that would certainly rip by head off if we didn’t have a fence separating us.  If the officer was as uncomfortable with this dog as I would be without the fence, then he was absolutely right to shoot it.  I certainly wouldn’t wait until the dog was charging to shoot it.  Not everyone has spent hours on the stage of Medal of Honor Allied Assault where the dogs come at you from all directions.

I don’t buy the owner’s claim that his dog is just a happy and friendly ball of fur.  We’re smarter than that.  And I definitely don’t buy that the officer should have backed away from the dog.

beerorkid September 22, 2008 at 3:57pm

Children make me uncomfortable, does not mean I should shoot them.

beerorkid September 22, 2008 at 3:57pm

This would be a great time to use a stun gun.

Dave K September 22, 2008 at 4:01pm

Unless you know children that can maim or kill you, then that sense of discomfort is a little different than the one I’m talking about.

Dave K September 22, 2008 at 4:02pm

I can see the t-shirts now: Woof woof woof, woof. (Don’t tase me, bro in dog).

avabee September 22, 2008 at 5:08pm

I agree.  In Omaha, this has become a HUGE problem—cops are shooting dogs through screen doors, nonthreatening dogs, etc. 

Dogs will normally bark when people approach their property. 

I will agree that the owner was irresponsible in having an offleash dog, but that’s no reason for the dog to be shot.

D.M.B. September 22, 2008 at 6:02pm

I have a really tough time believing that any police officer would be capable of shooting a harmless dog.  Sure its happened before, but the majority of the time I’m sure an officer has had just cause to shoot an animal. 

If this were any other type of dog, I would question whether the officer was in any real danger.  But folks, there are reasons why cities across the country are enacting put bull bans.  Because these are very dangerous dogs.  In most cases with dogs, they’re not going to seriously hurt someone, in the case of pit bulls you are seriously hurt and in many cases killed if you are attacked.

I do not feel bad for this dog being shot even if the officer felt he was in the slightest bit of danger.

avabee September 22, 2008 at 7:56pm

In Omaha, 39 dogs have been shot in 2007-2008.  The Humane Society recently did a training session with officers on how to properly handle dogs (shooting dogs without provocation is cruel, unprofessional, and an invitation for lawsuits against the city).

Four years ago, police officers entered the home of Colleen M. Carroll using a no-knock warrant. Even before opening a storm door, officers shot through the door, striking a 2-yr-old Labrador Retriever mix named Lucky, killing him. It is not an unreasonable “what-if” to ask what if a human in the house had walked by that storm door when these officers shot through it to shoot a non-aggressive dog?

According to court records, Officers Constance Garro and Mike Ashbrook, along with at least two unnamed officers, executed a no-knock search warrant at the Carroll home, 6568 Military Ave., on Nov. 18, 2004.

Carroll and Lucky Boy were in the living room at the time.

The lawsuit says officers, standing outside the home, had not announced their presence when one of them fired a shot that entered the house through a storm door and struck Lucky Boy. He died soon thereafter.

http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=2798&u_sid=10411117

avabee September 22, 2008 at 7:57pm

See below—meant to be a response to your post.

christopher September 22, 2008 at 8:31pm

The incident occurred four years ago, and now the dog owners sue the city? Give me a break.

beerorkid September 22, 2008 at 8:32pm

seems the little bugger is strong and recovering but might loose a leg.

LJS article

I was under the impression the dog did not make it.

avabee September 22, 2008 at 8:41pm

Don’t know much about this particular lawsuit, but with tort claims against the city there’s a one year statute of limitations.  It probably took this far to actually make it through the system enough to get noticed by the press.

D.M.B. September 22, 2008 at 8:42pm

So its a huge problem now, but you site an incident that happened 4 years ago?

“Paul Landow, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Fahey, said Omaha police have shot 39 dogs since 2007. Of those, 32 were pit bulls and one was a pit bull mix.”

85% of the dogs shot were of a pit bull variety.  Evidence enough for me that they’re a dangerous breed.

Mr. Wilson September 22, 2008 at 8:46pm

Thanks for the update, beerorkid. The article made it sound like the dog’s death was imminent, but that it hadn’t died by press time. Apparently the reports of its demise were premature.

Andrew September 22, 2008 at 8:55pm

perfect, another instance where some people think the police are infallible.

avabee September 22, 2008 at 10:25pm

39 dogs shot, yes, it’s a problem.  I could find more, it was the first one that came up when I did a search.

Dave K September 22, 2008 at 10:30pm

Who thinks that?

Andrew September 22, 2008 at 10:48pm

Maybe you? but mostly just my general sentiment on what the attitude seems to be on many lincoln blogs and message boards whenever something like this comes up.

do you honestly think we should be able to kill dogs because they are not secured and we are “uncomfortable,” or is that right only reserved for those with badges?

sure the owner should have kept his dog secured, but there is no indication given that this dog needed to be killed. Also, I recognize that we now know the dog did not in fact die, however I am sure the officer fired with the intention of death.

Mr. T September 22, 2008 at 11:43pm

Was the pit bull wearing lipstick?

beerorkid September 23, 2008 at 12:13am

The % of dogs shot being pitbulls is sad.  The rush to ban pitbulls is all the rage these days.  You can look at other stats that seem disproportionate percentages like traffic tickets issued compared to pullovers by race and draw a conclusion.  Shall we ban (insert race here) from driving?

Many things go into the percentage of pitbulls shot by officers compared to other breeds.
* perceived danger because of breed.
* Officers not trained to differentiate signals given off by dogs.
* and the simple fact that many folk get pitbulls or other powerful breeds and do not train them properly. 
* The type of residence which the officer has to visit.

I live in an area that has some lower income housing and folks who appear to be influenced by rap / thug culture.  There are many pitbull owners who proudly show their dogs off as tough.  I am very cautious when biking by them.  I can only pedal so fast.  It is a perceived danger I am feeling based on the appearance of the owner.  I am ashamed to admit it, but it is true.

It really does come down to the owner and the training.  Daddy on the dog whisperer and Cesar himself are a perfect example that it is the upbringing from the owner that is truly to blame.

My 11 year old arthritic German shorthair and my mutt both are very vocal of new people and can come off as seeming aggressive.  But both would tuck their tails and cower if you clapped your hands.  We are working on their greeting skills, but it is their nature.

I am not kidding when I claim I am scared of children.  They can be nearly as dangerous without proper parenting.

It was a messed up situation.  I cannot judge what happened.  The dog should of been restrained.

Gene September 23, 2008 at 1:08am

Well played, sir! :D

Carnac September 23, 2008 at 2:51am

I can’t even imagine, no matter how much training, the split second reactions law enforcement officers must make.

My opinion is: I would never be able to second guess them.

Dave K September 23, 2008 at 3:35am

The difference between me and you is that I give the police, the guardians of our safety, the benefit of the doubt.  And since the information we have available here is that there was an unleashed pit bull approaching an officer, there isn’t even that much doubt.  I’m sure you love animals, but the safety of police officers comes before that of a dog (in my opinion, at least).

andrew September 23, 2008 at 1:52pm

That’s pretty much what I expected you to say, and it validates my suspicions. A pattern is not isolated, and suggests something more profound than a series of split second decisions.

Dave K September 23, 2008 at 2:00pm

Do you disagree with what I said?

andrew September 23, 2008 at 2:06pm

“The difference between me and you is that I give the police, the guardians of our safety, the benefit of the doubt.” I disagree here, as you are at the top of the slippery slope saying all police officers should have free reign to do whatever they want because they put their lives on the line and so on and so forth.

“I

Dave K September 23, 2008 at 3:12pm

I disagree here, as you are at the top of the slippery slope saying all police officers should have free reign to do whatever they want because they put their lives on the line and so on and so forth.

Giving police officers the benefit of the doubt and saying they can do whatever they want are two completely different things.

JB September 23, 2008 at 5:44pm

There are not police officers shooting harmless dogs in Omaha behind screen doors.  I know many OPD officers and they are not afraid to kill and animal that is threatening them, and nor would I.  This is blatant ignorance about the Omaha situation.  There have been many recent attacks by HARMFUL dogs, and then the dogs are eventually put down.  Remember the pitbull that tore off a child’s cap of her skull?

Ed1974 September 23, 2008 at 6:54pm

Sorry I didn’t get to see this yesterday.  too bad you couldn’t have walked in front of the officer.  That way if the dog attacked you he’d have been “justified.”  Give me a break….they guy who owned the dog had a record and I’m pretty sure he trained that pit bull to attack.

andrew September 23, 2008 at 7:02pm

It’s a good thing you are privy to such information. Thank you for your opinion.

CS September 23, 2008 at 7:03pm

Pepper spray is an area reactant and can affect other people, including the officer deploying it. Taser probes must both make contact in order to be effective. The dog was unleashed, already in violation, and owned by someone with several warrants. That, to me, establishes enough cause for the officer in question to use deadly force. I would suggest working in a maximum security prison, or going on a ride along on 2nd-3rd shift sometime to get an idea of what a split second decision could look like, Andrew.

Neal September 24, 2008 at 2:21am

I second guess a whole lot of what police do, but I actually agree with Dave K here for the most part, shocking as that may be to any Lincolnite old-timers.

I can respect what you’re trying to say, Andrew, but I don’t think that someone agreeing with the cop doing what he did in this particular situation somehow translates to a blanket endorsement of any police action.

Ed1974 September 25, 2008 at 6:14pm

If reading the paper makes me privey…then I guess I am.

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