Target: Phil Lynn, International Association of Chiefs of Police
Goal: Implement a policy protecting non-threatening dogs from being shot by police officers.
Every 98 minutes a dog is shot by law enforcement in the United States. Officers are often too quick to pull the trigger when faced with an animal, and suffer little to no consequences for taking the life of an innocent dog. With the high number of animal deaths caused by law enforcement gunfire, it is hard to believe all of the animals were threatening harm to the officers in question.
Directors Michael Ozias and Patrick Reasonover have created a documentary on the unfortunate deaths caused by law enforcement, entitled Puppycide. This documentary covers the bonds between dogs and their owners, the unfortunate stories of dogs wrongfully killed by law enforcement and the futile attempts by mourning owners to seek justice for the deaths of their furry friends. Police do not keep accessible records of dog shootings, so it is difficult to track or prove these tragic incidents.
Though you would hope every officer would act with a sense and compassion when dealing with animals, many make split-second decisions that end in tragedy. An officer who feels “threatened” is almost always viewed as justified, even if the actions taken result in the death of a pet. Most officers are not trained in animal behavior, and they are also not briefed on how to use non-lethal alternatives to firearms, such as pepper spray, tasers, or even batons if they are feeling threatened by an animal.
There are occasions, exposed in the film Puppycide, where animals are shot and killed when they are certainly not threatening an officer, like an instance when a dog was shot in the back while running away from the officer, or a dog that was on a leash was shot and killed. Many owners are not given the opportunity to secure their animals before lethal action is taken against them. Police departments need to establish clear guidelines for dealing with animals, including what action to take when presented with particular animal behaviors.
Officers should be trained to deal with family pets compassionately and intelligently, learning to not fear dogs but to be able to decipher when they are truly in danger, and when an animal is not threatening to the officer. Demand that the International Association of Chiefs of Police begin the discussion of what guidelines to put in place for when officers encounter animals, and how to hold officers accountable for their actions toward innocent animals.
Dear Phil Lynn,
Every day, countless animals are shot, many killed, due to careless split-second decisions made by officers in the field. Most officers are not held accountable for their behavior toward animals, for when an officer “feels threatened” he or she is viewed as being justified in shooting. However, most officers are not trained in animal behavior and are not qualified to determine what is truly threatening. There have been numerous stories of animals being shot that were not threatening an officer in any way. Please begin the conversation within your professional community to set clear guidelines to inform all officers in the U.S. of what appropriate actions should be taken in response to different animal behaviors.
Educate officers on alternative defense methods in response to non-life-threatening animal behavior, such as tasers, pepper spray, or even batons. Let officers know that they are expected to act appropriately and to protect animal life whenever possible. Inform them that they will be held accountable for their actions toward animals, and then do what is necessary to keep appropriate records to hold officers accountable.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Chris Vaughan, Flickr