01 May 2017

WELFARE - Addressing Police Shootings of Family Pets

In America, police shootings of family pets, particularly dogs, have been called an “epidemic” by some experts.

According to the ASPCA, “public records of firearms discharges by police indicate that it is common for 50% or more of all shooting incidents to involve an officer shooting a dog.”

Although exact numbers are impossible to determine since they are not tracked, estimates range from several hundred to several thousand family-owned dogs killed by police each year.

Many of these killings were unnecessary, and may have resulted from a lack of adequate training in understanding and responding to animals.

The Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) department of the United States Department of Justice is hoping to address the issue through a new training protocol designed to give officers better skills.

The training is particularly relevant now that the Sixth Circuit has ruled that officers can shoot a dog for moving or barking during a police raid.

This ruling does not sit well with some Detroit citizens.

Detroit police have faced multiple lawsuits recently from dog owners whose pets have been killed, including a dog who was behind a closed door, and one dog who was tethered in the backyard of someone who was not a suspect in the case.

It’s not only Detroit with a problem.

According to a police officer speaking to Cracked, it’s not uncommon for police officers to have an intense fear of dogs.

The new COPS training protocol will hopefully help with this, particularly now that American police have greater legal sanction to use lethal force against dogs.

Other jurisdictions have not had the same widespread public outcry against police shootings of pet dogs (the Puppycide Database attempts to track police killings of pet dogs in America and to help pet owners advocate for their rights).

However, there have been instances of questionable police killings of pet dogs in Canada, as well.

In one well-publicized incident an elderly dog was run over twice before being shot.

In another, RCMP officers shot a dog during a raid.

According to Cynthia Bathurst, the Executive Director of Safe Humane, and the content producer for the COPS training program, “The goal is to introduce options and strategies that will deescalate encounters with dogs.”

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

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