A rash of animal shootings by police officers nationwide has law-enforcement agencies running for cover amid growing public outrage that could force state legislatures to require greater accountability from men and women in uniform.
Police in Utah shot a family’s dog while searching for a lost boy, prompting hundreds of pet owners to protest June 28 in front of the Salt Lake City Police Department headquarters. They carried signs demanding “justice for Geist,” a 110-pound Weimaraner shot by a city cop within the dog’s fenced-in back yard. The “missing” boy was later found sleeping in his home.
Watch video of the man whose dog, Geist, was killed by Salt Lake City Police:
State police in West Virginia shot a family’s dog June 24 as it was reportedly running away from them during a search for a suspect on adjoining property. Shots rang out even as the dog’s owner was screaming for officers to hold their fire and let her put her dog inside.
In Maryland, two Baltimore police officers were charged last week with animal cruelty after one of them allegedly held down Nala, a 7-year-old Shar-Pei, while the other slit the dog’s throat.
Richard Bruce Rosenthal, general counsel and co-founder of New York-based the Lexus Project, said police across the country are trending toward less tolerance and less respect for people’s pets, which he sees as part of a larger trend toward more aggressive policing tactics in America.
A pet is a person’s property, which should not be summarily executed for doing what dogs naturally do, which is to investigate unknown people or other dogs who approach their territory, he asserted.
“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality,” marshals the terrifying evidence to show the world of Big Brother is much closer than we want to admit.
“It is a growing problem and part of it is, post 9/11, our judicial system has basically trashed the Constitution under the mantle of security, and personal rights cease to exist,” Rosenthal told WND.
“All over the country we have cops shooting dogs for no other reason than they can. And our courts and our elected officials, rather than protecting the citizens and the Constitution, simply see it as a way to take more power and more money. I think it’s a civil-rights violation. I think it’s a constitutional violation.”
The West Virginia incident happened June 24 in a rural area of Mason County. A paramilitary unit scoured the woods bordering the property of 32-year-old Ginger Sweat. Her dog, a 6-year-old beagle-basset hound named Willy Pete, woke up from an afternoon snooze on his porch to the sound of eight officers coming out of the adjacent woods. Willy Pete scampered off to investigate. Sweat, who was putting one of her two young children down for a nap, looked out the window and saw an officer with a police dog on a leash emerge from the woods and ran out outside pleading with the officers not to shoot her dog, begging them to let her bring it inside.
The officer shot once, missing Willy Pete but sending the dog, which had arthritis in its back legs, running back toward Sweat, she told the Charleston Daily Mail. Three more shots were fired in the dog’s direction, toward Sweat and the home where her two children were sleeping, Sweat told the local newspaper. Willy Pete was hit three times and fell dead in a pool of blood behind her mobile home.
The family created a Facebook page called “Justice for Willy Pete,” which as of June 30 had 5,642 “likes” and hundreds of comments expressing sympathy and outrage.
The West Virginia State Police released a detailed statement late Monday night apologizing to the Sweat family but providing a conflicting version of what led up to the shooting of their dog. From the agency’s perspective, Willy Pete was given a chance to back off but “growled and bared his teeth” at the officers. That’s when Sgt. S.T. Harper, a 14-year veteran of the force, shot him, said spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous.
Baylous previously told WND that anytime an officer discharges his weapon, the incident comes under routine investigation.
He could not say how many times the department’s officers have shot and killed someone’s pet over the past year.
“It’s so rare; I can’t think of the last time it happened,” Baylous said. “I have no knowledge of what is happening nationwide, but it’s not a regular occurrence with the West Virginia State Police. We shoot far less animals than we do people who are a threat.”
But State House Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, said he believes it would be a mistake to view the killing of Willy Pete as an isolated incident in West Virginia. He said it happens more often than most people realize, but most cases go unreported in the media. He’s launched an investigation and is pushing for new rules that would hold officers accountable. He sent an email to the State Police seeking more information on the June 24 incident in Mason County.
If he doesn’t get the answers he is seeking, Manypenny said he’s prepared to take the next step.
“I hope we can get some answers because we do need to find out what happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Manypenny told WND. “I’m asking them to introduce a rule on nonlethal methods that can be used against domesticated animals, and if they won’t do it voluntarily, we need the legislature to require them to introduce a rule for nonlethal action.”
Manypenny said he believes that if the story told by the Sweat family is accurate, the police overreacted.
“I don’t know how far we’d want to go to put provisions in the law requiring unpaid leave or dismissal of an officer if they’re found to put people’s pets in endangerment, but yeah, I think it was totally uncalled for,” he sad. “But I want to call for an investigation rather than just shoot from the hip when we don’t have all of the details of what went on. So far, I’ve put in an email requesting some more transparency from the police.”
Police shot a dog in front of its owner in Hawthorne, California, because they didn’t like the owner recording them:
WND asked for a copy of the standard operating procedures outlining the rules of engagement that West Virginia State Police use when encountering pets.
Baylous said he could not provide SOPs, because the department considers that to be confidential information.
“I don’t think they have one,” Manypenny said when told of WND’s request. “A lot of law enforcement doesn’t feel they need it. From the stories I’ve seen in the newspapers, and on social media, it shouldn’t be happening this much, and I think it’s a wakeup call to the citizens of this state, because I think 90 percent of West Virginians have pets. When they’re made aware of what’s going on they become outraged, and it’s my job to make sure justice is served and we have the proper laws in place to protect their pets.”
Manypenny said he will take his investigation to the next level if the police don’t cooperate with his request for details on what happened the afternoon of June 24 in Mason County.
“I’m going to have to call on other legislators to work with me on a combined letter demanding it,” he said. “Unless they are forthright and give the information without being required to, I think we’re going to have to get a letter from several lawmakers. Our letter will probably go to the governor because he’s their boss.
“There are so many non-lethal ways they could have dealt with this dog. Pepper spray, or simply yelling at it, probably would have made him run away.”
According to the Sweat family, their dog was already running away when it was shot three times, but right now Manypenny just wants to get both sides of the story.
‘Every 98 minutes’
No government agency keeps a national database on the number of pets killed by police. But animal-abuse activists have kept statistics, and they say a pet is killed by law enforcement every 98 minutes in America. They say it is largely a result of officers having little-to-no training on how to deal with dogs.
And if they will shoot a person’s pet without hesitating, that should make people concerned for their own safety, Rosenthal said.
“It’s a travesty that’s going on all over the country, and the more it happens the more our police feel emboldened to pull their guns and shoot first,” Rosenthal said.
“Is that supposed to make us feel safe? Government and police have gotten to the point where they cease to serve the citizens and believe everyone is here for their convenience. Between the civil-asset forfeiture laws, which have now become big business for police departments, and the civil rights violations in just so many different areas, it’s become really a problem. We are developing an American Gestapo.”
Rosenthal said when police conduct searches, they don’t make plans for the presence of a dog, they simply assume all dogs are dangerous and shoot them.
“Whenever and wherever this happens, people are horrified at the reckless use of police power, but basically (police) ignore it in the name of security,” Rosenthal said. “The only way it’s going to be reformed is if more and more people get lawyers and litigate. And people need to petition their state legislature to make them responsible. If pet owners would band together and say ‘we’re going to vote them out of office unless they start protecting us,’ things would change.”
An online petition at Change.org had gathered 4,442 signatures as of June 30 seeking changes in state laws in the wake of Willy Pete’s execution in West Virginia.
“Please continue to share this Petition. I have been sending it to President Obama, Governor Jerry Brown, My State Legislator, Senator Barbara Boxer, & Senator Dianne Feinstein,” wrote petition organizer Patty Jackson of Downey, California. “I have also been writing them on a daily basis, asking for police to be trained all across the United States …you can help me in this fight by contacting your State Legislator and asking them to create a bill similar to Bill SB13-226 that was signed into law on 5/13/13 by the Governor of Colorado, it’s called ‘The Dog Protection Act.”
Downey said she’s heard a lot of politicians make speeches “asking the citizens of the USA to turn in their guns.”
“It is now time for the police to turn in their guns in exchange for a can of Mace, whenever they encounter what they would call an aggressive pet,” she said. “… It is time for zero tolerance against this escalating animal abuse in this country.”
The West Virginia State Police Facebook page also lit up with hundreds of critical comments after the killing of Willy Pete. Many were being deleted, a department spokesman admitted.
“They have numerous other pages available on FB to spew their hatred of Law Enforcement without posting to ours. Please assist us in maintaining a professional image by not responding to their vitriol,” the State Police posted on its Facebook site on June 28.
Col. Jay Smithers’ statement on the West Virginia State Police website says: “Our agency was created in 1919 and is the fourth oldest state police agency in the United States. Our sworn members have proudly served the citizens of the state with honor, bravery, and professionalism for more than 90 years.”
The bravery and professionalism of executing someone’s pet on first sight is exactly what’s being called into question following incidents like the one in Mason County.
Rosenthal said petitions and social media are useful tools, but the power of the ballot box may be the only language many politicians understand.
“Unfortunately we’ve developed a governing class of professional politicians, which was one of the biggest ills the Founding Fathers warned against,” he said. “Our politicians have no relationship to the populations they serve. But in due course it’s going to be litigated, and if it gets litigated enough, they will have to come up with a theory that courts have to accept. Unfortunately, our federal judges are more intent on getting rid of cases than on enforcing the law. They want to clear their calendars, and justice or following the law takes a back seat.”
WND has reported several cases of police shooting pets in recent years, including an incident Feb. 8 in which an officer in Filer, Idaho, was captured on video killing two Labradors.
Rosenthal said he and his wife are forming a new organization called the Voice for Animals, a nonprofit that will take on and litigate some of the most egregious animal shootings.
“To the extent we are able to find local counsel we are open to going after some of these police departments,” he said.
Recently reported police dog-shootings:
- Off-duty National City police officer shoots dog in Bonita, California, June 28.
- Newton, Iowa, family wants answers after officer shoots dog, June 24.
- Woman upset after police shoot dog in Topeka, Kansas, June 20.
- San Antonia police shoot, kill dog during drug raid on home, June 20.
- Dog dies after it’s shot by Woonsockett, Rhode Island, police June 16.
- Baltimore police officer accused of slitting the throat of dog, June 14.
- Police officer cites aggression in killing homeless man’s dog June 14.
- Police officer charged after shooting friendly dog in Sulphur, Louisiana, June 11.
- Beverly, New Jersey, cop shoots dog at close range, June 10.
- Dog shot, killed while trying to protect collapsed owner in Broomfield, Colorado, June 1.
- Round Rock, Texas, police shoot, kill family’s dog inside their home while responding to false alarm, May 30
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/police-take-horrific-action-every-98-minutes/#bxY5hOYdcBYO1Fuu.99
16 thoughts on “Why are police shooting so many family dogs?”
Here is the real kicker that wasn’t mentioned in this article
ZERO ..yes a big 0 police officers were ever killed by any dog ..EVER!!!
so why such prejudice against our pets/family/mans best friend/?
seems that their fears are unprecedented ..unwarranted and totally unnecessary
and should be met with a law against this action ever again in the future
but as of yet you hear nothing..crickets from the animal rights groups..so why is that? or should i say WTF is taking them so dam long to get on board?
well anyways I applaud someone finally getting into this, I hope you have a very tuff skin and can take these jackholes to task on this ..its way overdue
Cops R Cocks
Here is how it works. The pigs are being coached by the Isreali Skank “Instructors” at Homeland Suck-urity to kill the dogs as part of the first phase of open Communist Occupation of AmeriKa and the Implimentation of the Red Terror in AmeriKa. The next phase which is over lapping with the “kill the pets” program is to kill the children and women to wag their weenie in the face of the nation. “Girl shot 4 times in the face” by swine that jumped onto car. This and many others are happening now. Not “down the road”, NOW. Vote with your wallet and buy more ammo. The whole campaign to kill the dogs is a coached operation. We all know what needs to be done. Liberty1775
and we have a winner!
who else hates dogs?
seems to me a lot of Muslims hate dogs. maybe its out of a misunderstanding ? or a cleanliness issue..or the fact that not many are kept as pets in their world
so is some of this hate being trained into our cops,,..from Islam ..
But we all know the eye in the sky sees and records everything. How do you think they were able to track down that ex con that killed the private prison CEO so fast? It’s very simple technology. So the cops are rendered completely useless given the fact that they can just play the video backwards to see where the criminal came from, why confront the bank robbers in the open when you can just see where they came from and went. The courts and Judges are just a show when you can see everything that happened. Something as simple as a persons walk can be an identifier from space. Cops are outmoded. The question is why are they still around and killing our loved ones and pets?
and they will not wise up until THEY are the ones being tracked, attacked, and killed… and, of course, then its too late.
Stupid is, as stupid does.
I know many will disagree(which is fine)but my dogs are and always will be family members,as a person with no other family i.e. wife/kids cops killed my dog in a moment of heat/aggression/steroid abuse I will exact complete revenge/retribution/in my book justice,at a point were I care about ones I love but otherwise don’t give a f#$K,am sick of out of control people with firearms getting a free ride murdering citizens and members of their family.
Agreed. I’ve said before – if any pigs shoot any of MY dogs I’m shooting them. I know it’ll result in a shootout and more than likely I’ll be killed and I don’t care. My heart is right with God and I’m ready to go. Enough is enough.
Litigation based on Cruelty to Animals and unwarranted destruction of private property is in order.
Cops who shoot family pets are craven cowards who have no right to hide behind a badge. Who needs cops like that? They are more like a gang of thugs in the protection/extortion racket.
“The fish stinketh from the head.”
This is behavior conditioning at its best. For me, it is fairly obvious that word has been passed down through the ranks that they should begin this. They’re just getting things ready for when they decide to start eliminating babies and the elderly as well.
It comes down to an act of a total coward! It is meant to instill fear in the average people, in other words you and I !
If you knew how screwed up the average cop was you would never call 911.
Let usnot forget a child was shot in Detroit and the officer used the excuse she looked like a dog to me and was found inocent of murder. That was a strong president there. So they need to shot dogs to back up the story that people today look like dogs to them as well. And yes the police will shoot a person they don’t likes dog. Happens all the time. Just don’t make the news or only local news. Happened as well in Springfield IL. were I use to live. Guned the dog down in a persons fenced back yard behind the dogs fence. On a I do not like and got away with it. But remember this as well. A property owner has the right to hunt down and destroy any animal that atacts there live stock, or domestic animals. As they are stealing his livlyhood and house protection. Many are trained to preform needed services like herding that could cause a family who looses them to starve to death or suffer other great misfortune at there loss. So maybe hunt down the animal applys here. I think it would myself. And eliminate it from further damage. There is also the social cost to consider and the tramitization of children. By police free shooting. When you add that social cost. And kids go to school and break into tear with there friends over loss as such. What do the police think this does to there rputation with future tax payers? See a problem here COP! You are ruining your own future doing so! Now go to school and have a I will brag for the kids day fool!
“They say it is largely a result of officers having little-to-no training on how to deal with dogs.”
I’m sorry, but since when does someone need training in how to deal with a dog?
If they don’t know how to deal with a dog by the age of 21, maybe they should go back to school or have training in common sense first (not to be confused with Communist sense), since they are dumber than a sack full of hay.