24 January-February 2011 | Dogs Naturally Magazine

It used to be a rarity to hear of a dog being shot by a law enforcement
omcer. Not any more. Something has happened in our culture and
our law enforcement communities to cause an exponential increase
in tragic incidents such as the one that occurred on September 12th,
2010, at a crowded street festival in Washington DC. On that afer-
noon, Omcer Scott Fike shot and killed Parrot, a Pit Bull/Shar Pei
mix who was attending the event with his foster caretaker. Parrot had
been minding his own business when the owner of a small poodle
allowed her dog to approach Parrot. Parrot bit the other dog. Ac-
cording to reports, the incident had resolved and Parrot's caretaker
had him under control when the police omcer approached and alpha-
rolled the dog. When Parrot attempted to defend himself the omcer
threw him down a set of cement stairs and shot him.
Other recent cases from the Police-Killing-Dogs Hall of Shame in-
clude Bear, a Siberian Husky who was shot by an of-duty federal po-
lice omcer for engaging in what was probably rough play between
two dogs at a dog park, or at worse a normal, non-serious ¨scume"
between two dogs," and the killing of two Labrador Retrievers in their
own home; the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland,
when police omcers served a search warrant at the wrong address.
In November, in Seattle, Washington, a well-loved Newfoundland,
Rosie, escaped her yard, frightened passers-by, and was eventually
shot by police in a neighbor's fenced back yard, where she could have
easily been safely contained until her owner was located. While some
omcer-related dog shootings certainly are more than justifed, many,
including the ones described above, are not.
Dr. Randal Lockwood of the American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals says he sees 230 to 300 incidents per year in me-
dia reports, and estimates another 1,000 aren't reported. Tat's more
than three per day! What is going on::
I worked for 20 years at the Marin Humane Society in Novato, Cali-
fornia, just north of San Francisco, for much of that time as a humane
omcer enforcing humane and animal control laws. I can't recall one
single incident of a dog being shot by a police omcer in our coun-
ty during that two-decade span. On the rare occasions when a dog
shooting did happen somewhere in the country, there was inevitably
a huge uproar with considerable attention from the media. Today,
apparently, omcers shoot and kill dogs around the United States mul-
tiple times daily and it hardly causes a ripple. Most of the time not
much is said about it - it certainly isn't ofen picked up by national
news. So what has changed: Several things:
1. Popularization of the Pit Bull. In 1976 when I started working
at Marin, we never saw a Pit Bull in a shelter. Ever. In those days
the only people who owned Pit Bulls were dog fghters, and they
weren't about to let their dogs end up in shelters. Nor were they
foolish enough to breed dogs who would attack people. Tey
had to be in the pit with dogs who were fghting each other, and
sometimes separate them when they were fghting. Te last thing
they wanted was a dog who would bite a human. Ten, in the
1990s, Te Humane Society of the United States launched a cam-
paign to make dogfghting a felony in all 30 states. In their ef-
forts to educate the public and legislators about the brutally cruel
¨sport" they glamorized the breed - and people started wanting
them. Some of these people were responsible dog owners, but
there were also a lot of irresponsible ones. Shelters started seeing
a trickle, then a downpour, fnally a food of Bully dogs, until
today almost every full-service shelter in the country ofen fnds
a preponderance of Pit-type dogs in their kennels. Many other
large, strong breeds - like the Rottweiler, the Cane Corso, the
Presa Canario, the Boerboel, and the American Bulldog - were
also extremely rare in this country until the 1990s and later. Now
they are common. Law enforcement omcers in general seem to
be exceptionally reactive to the Bully breeds.
2. Sensitization of Our Society to Dog Bites. In the ¨good old days,"
if a dog bit a kid, Mom usually asked Junior what he did to the
dog. Today she calls Animal Control frst, then her attorney. In
the ¨good old days," dogs ran loose a lot, everyone accepted that
dogs were a part of life, that dogs sometimes bit people, and it
was no big deal. Plus, because dogs ran loose a lot, they were bet-
ter socialized and probably less likely to bite people. Today, with
a marked increase in responsible dog ownership, dogs don't run
loose so much, they aren't as well socialized, and the population
of humans as a whole is a lot less comfortable, and less tolerant,
of dogs being dogs.
3. Dog Mauling and Dog-Related Fatality Statistics. In the mid
1990's, an average of 20 people per year were killed by dogs in the
U.S. In those pre pit-popularity days, dogs most ofen implicated
in serious dog bites and dog-related fatalities were breeds like
Huskies and German Shepherds - medium-to-large dogs who
lacked the sheer bulk and determination of many of the Bully
types. In 2009 there were some 32 dog-related fatalities in this
country; 13 allegedly caused by Pitbulls or Pit mixes and three
by Rottweilers or Rottie mixes. At the close of 2010, with 34 fa-
by: Pat Miller
Dogs Naturally Magazine | January-February 2011 25
talities on the books 17 of the deaths were caused by Pits; fve
by Rottweilers; and one by an American Bulldog. Tat's 36° in
2009 by what some call ¨high-risk" breeds, and a staggering 68°
so far in 2010. Although 34 deaths is miniscule in a country with
a population of more than 310 million, in which an average of
92 people are killed by lightning annually; 13,300 by murder (by
our own species) and 42,000 in car accidents, still, people get
incensed over dog-related fatalities.
4. Lack of Community Involvement. In the end, the police work
for us. We the People. If we don't get involved over police shoot-
ing dogs, they can reasonably take that as a statement of public
support for their actions. I think back to all the aggressive dogs I
managed to handle during my animal protection career without
ever shooting one - and without ever being badly bitten (one
minor bite in 20 years. but that's another story). I carried a gun
for the sole purpose of dispatching badly injured wildlife, and it
never even occurred to me to point it at a dog. My trusty con-
trol pole was all I ever needed to protect me from the ravages of
fashing canine teeth.
So. if you want this trend to change, get involved. Insist that your
law enforcement omcers be trained and equipped to appropriately
and non-lethally handle situations in which dogs are involved. Call
your police department tomorrow to inquire about their department
policies for handling dogs, and to ask if their omcers are equipped
with and trained in the use of humane canine capture equipment.
Ten ask three of your friends to call, and have them ask three of
their friends. Get it started. Perhaps Parrot, Bear-Bear and Rosie's
deaths can have some meaning afer all. !"#
Pat Miller is a Certifed Dog and Horse Behavior Consultant and
Certifed Professional Dog Trainer. She ofers classes, behavior modi-
fcation services, training clinics and academies for trainers at her 80
acre Peaceable Paws training facility in Fairplay, Maryland (US), and
presents seminars worldwide. She has authored “Te Power of Positive
Dog Training,” “Positive Perspectives,” “Positive Perspectives 2,” “Play
With Your Dog,” and “Do-Over Dogs.” Miller is training editor for Te
Whole Dog Journal, writes for Tuf’s University’s Your Dog, and several
other publications. She shares her home with husband Paul, fve dogs,
three cats, fve horses, a donkey and a potbellied pig. To learn more
about Pat, visit: www.peaceablepaws.com
As a result of the outcry over Parrot's shooting and the acknowledgement that most omcers would prefer
not to shoot dogs, a group of caring dog owners and law enforcement omcers have organized a group called
PEACE (Protecting Enforcement and Canines Trough Education). PEACE is in the process of becoming
a 301(c)3 nonproft organization whose mission will be to support and promote education for dog owners
and law enforcement in order to reduce the number of dog-related shootings that occur each year. Resources
will include information for owners on how to keep their dogs safe, as well as opportunities for law enforce-
ment training on dog body language and behavior. PEACE currently ofers a yahoo groups discussion list (no
police-bashing allowed!) as a forum to discuss incidents, identify resources and explore strategies for address-
ing the issue of omcer-related dog shootings. To join that list and join in the discussion, send an e-mail mes-
sage to: copsshootingdog-subscribe,yahoogroups.com.

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