Monday, January 24, 2011

You Have to Be Wearing the Right Costume to Shoot a Dog

Americans are used to living with the fact that police officers are held to much lower standards of conduct than the rest of us. The blue costume and tin badge really matter -- if one wishes to engage in self-defense.

The standard for regular citizens (or what the police all "mundanes") is this: No matter how deadly a threat you or one of your loved ones may face from someone else, you can be charged with a felony for engaging in self-defense, and especially if that self-defense is carried out via a firearm.

However, if you wear the Blue Costume, then there really is no standard at all. If an officer claims to perceive a threat, then deadly force can be used indiscriminately, even if innocent people -- or their pets -- are killed. As I noted in a recent post about a police killing in Fairfax County, Virginia, an officer who gunned down an unarmed man who engaged in absolutely no provocation received three weeks off from work and pretty much was exonerated by his superiors. That is pretty typical for this country.

In this post, I wish to deal simply with the shooting of dogs and how the rules differ between police and the rest of us. As Will Grigg notes here, a woman in Durham, North Carolina (the august place that gave us the Duke Lacrosse Frame in which police and prosecutors engaged in criminal activity but claim that their actions were legal and moral) is being prosecuted for protecting her child from a vicious dog attack:
Tasheka Beatty should have adopted that approach on January 11 in dealing with an aggressive dog that attacked her two-year-old daughter and threatened her husband. Instead, the Durham, North Carolina resident has been charged with felonious animal cruelty and “discharging a firearm in public.”

“The dog was laying down asleep,” Beatty told a local television station. “My little girl got out of bed and went to the dog and that’s when he grabbed her. That’s what woke me up.” When the dog went after her husband, Beatty grabbed a shotgun. Then, rather than grabbing a shovel, Beatty tried to contact the local animal control department, which didn’t respond to several phone calls. She then took her little girl — who will require reconstructive surgery — to the hospital.

The next morning, frustrated by the predictable ineptitude of the animal control department, Beatty made the critical mistake of calling the police, who very helpfully slapped handcuffs on her wrists and kidnapped her at gunpoint, because that’s just how they roll.
At the same time, we read about an incident in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in which police shot a family dog because they were "tired" of trying to catch it:
A woman in Fayette County said police used her dog for target practice when she called them for help.

Elizabeth D'Auria said she and her sister found their two-year-old pit bull dead after calling 911 for help.

"There were pieces of the dog here. They didn't leave a note. They didn't leave anything," said D'Auria. "He died on that fence over there because he was trying to get away."

D'Aurio said she called Uniontown police after someone attempted to break in to her Evans Street home. She said at first the dog chased the person who tried to climb through a window.

"They told my sister that he wasn't trying to bite them and that he growled at them when they tried to put the noose around him, but they couldn't catch him and they were tired of messing with him and they just shot him," D'Aurio said.

D'Aurio said the dog was not being aggressive and thinks that police crossed the line.

"They shot him six times with a pistol and once with a shotgun. They took the dog and we asked them if we could have him back to bury him and they won't give him back to us," said D'Aurio.

Channel 11's Courtney Brennan contacted Uniontown police who did not wish to comment on the story.
Indeed, the only comments from the police will be to justify what they did. (No matter how outrageous their actions, police know that their governments and unions will have their backs.)

I could fill this blog with stories such as these, but I think we understand the larger point. To police, our pets are nothing but target practice, but if one of us kills a dog that is attacking our children, we go to prison. That is the sorry state of affairs that exists in this country, and nothing is on the horizon to change it.


liberranter said...

To police, our pets are nothing but target practice, but if one of us kills a dog that is attacking our children, we go to prison.

So how long will it be before the police become target practice for Us Mere Mundanes who've finally had enough?

William L. Anderson said...

Gotta be careful there. I am sure that people will say that I am soliciting people to shoot police officers, and I am not. I prefer that no one shoot anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Four Florida police officers have been ambushed and killed in the last five days.

Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve said...

Those of us who live in this area should well remember the January, 2003, Cookeville, TN, incident wherein one of that city’s finest shot and killed a dog belonging to a South Carolina family who had been mistakenly stopped for armed robbery. Just thinking about this incident still makes my blood boil but I had no idea it was part of a larger national problem.

The short story is that a TN Highway Patrol dispatcher screwed up a call about an armed robbery suspect. A THP unit stopped the family w/assistance from Cookeville’s Keystone Kops. The family cooperated fully and repeatedly asked the bully boys in blue to close their car door to keep the dog from getting loose. They did not and the dog got loose. That’s when Eric Hall, an officer more fit for school crossing guard duty than patrol, shotgunned the family pet to death in front of them.

According to Cookeville’s Barney Fife, the dog was being “aggressive,” video evidence to the contrary, and he had to “protect” himself. The department upheld his use of force as justified but later paid a little more than $70,000 to settle one suit brought by the family. Just as Dr. Anderson pointed out, the court upheld the shooting and denied liability for most of their claims. Even then-Governor Bresden called the family to apologize for the THP’s action. I have to wonder if Eric “Shotgun” Hall is still one of Cookeville’s Finest. If he is, do they still trust him to use deadly force or has he been placed on the animal control squad?

A department that will shoot dogs will shoot people because the courts and the system will cover for them. There is no standard or liability if you are one of the “club” because you are protected, unlike us ‘mundanes.”

URL’s for those interested.

Anonymous said...

Five police officers have been murdered in less than a week. One in Indianapolis. Two in Miami and two in St. Petersburg.

All shot dead.

johnlichtenstein said...

Elizabeth D'Auria should not have called the police if she didn't want her dog shot. It's really a mystery how anyone who just watched her dog protect her from an intruder could call 911 to ask for a dog killing squad to be dispatched to her house right away. It's like parents who complain about police tazing their kids. Please people shoot your own dogs and taze your kids yourself and leave the police out of it.

Anonymous said...

to the poster about the officer shootings, I hope the people pay for shooting those officers. You will not find disagreement on here about that. What this post covers is police brutality. Those officers should pay for their crimes but they get a pass instead.

Annie Cargirl said...

It is indeed a national problem. I co-mod a Facebook page where we and our members collect these stories in order to make the public more aware of this problem as well as to work together to try to find ways to keep these shootings from happening.

In nearly every single case of an officer shooting a dog, the officer(s) claim "the dog was charging" and that they shot in "self defense". I find it difficult to believe that so many dogs are "charging", especially when several of them have been shot in the back of their body parts (head, legs, back, etc.), every single time an officer approaches them.

And every single time the officer's department heads claim the officer "acted appropriately". Even when there is clear evidence to the contrary.

Education of law enforcement in how to properly deal with dogs, and harsher consequences for their actions are the two ways we believe we can start to put an end to these needless and tragic shootings.

Anyone who is interested in helping us find ways to address this issue is welcome to join our page at:

Thank you for the article.