Newark, Delaware – Police officers are being criticized for their response to a call about two stray dogs, and the concerned citizen who called animal control to ask for help is saying that the officers’ actions were actually what she hoped she could save the dogs from.
Leigh Spencer told Fox 29 that she was horrified when she witnessed the officers intentionally trying to run over over the dogs with their patrol cars. “I was the one that called Animal Control, and this was the outcome,” she said.
Spencer said that about a dozen police officers initially showed up and began clapping their hands and whistling, which made the dogs even more scared than they were before. She should know as she claimed one of the dogs actually came to her and put its snout in her hands. She was about to get control of one dog but she said police “brushed her away.”
After none of the officers were successful in getting control of the two strays, police then made the decision to run them over with their patrol cars. Both dogs were injured when the SUV hit them. One dog was then shot and killed by an officer, while the other dog successfully got away.
Spencer said she now feels guilty and blames the officers for doing the unthinkable. She said the dogs did not need to be run over. “It’s really upsetting and sad for me. I feel horrible,” she said.
Predictably, the Newark Delaware Police Department (NDPD) is defending the trigger-happy actions of its officers. In a statement, they claim the dogs were vicious and dangerous, even though Spencer claims otherwise. Not only did she make physical contact with one of the dogs but when it had an opportunity to bite her, it didn’t. NDPD said in a statement:
The dogs were aggressive towards the officers by sprinting towards the officers, baring their teeth, growling and foaming at the mouth. There were civilians in the area, including people walking and riding bicycles on the sidewalk on Ogletown Rd and others patronizing local businesses. The dogs began to chase these passersby and the officers were able to divert the dogs’ attention back towards the officers in an effort to protect the public. The dogs would then again charge at the officers.
Apologists for police, who seem to never question official police statements, will likely stand behind their boys in blue. But Spencer said it all could have been avoided and that running over the dogs was completely unnecessary. There were other witnesses as well who tell what they consider to be the true story of what happened.
In a series of Facebook posts, Spencer and her friends described the killing and attempted killing of two living creatures. Both Spencer and her friend, Ashton Cleveland, were present for the entire ordeal. Ironically, both are connected to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) International. Cleveland is a current employee and Spencer a former one.
Cleveland wrote a scathing rebuttal to the NDPD. She said the two animal advocates were threatened with arrest for attempting to help the so-called authorities:
I am sickened by your officers actions today. They cornered and taunted stray dogs that were initially acting FRIENDLY to the point that my friend almost had them leashed. I, an SPCA employee, and my friend a very recently former SPCA employee of 3 years were told to back off and threatened with arrest while trying to save the dogs.
Cleveland said no attempt was made to get control of the dogs with “catch poles” (poles with nooses on the ends to slip around the dogs’ necks). Instead, police officers immediately took out their service pistols to resolve the conflict. She named two NDPD officers, Keating and DiFrancesco, as being responsible for the shooting and the running over of the dogs by SUV.
They drew their weapons instead of using catch poles and then officer Keating SHOT ONE OF THE DOGS. Then, gave us a THUMBS UP after killing this dog. Then another officer, DiFrancesco,went out of his way to run the other dog over with his SUV. You should be ashamed. Complaints are being filed.
Spencer also went into very graphic detail as to why she called police, how she was threatened with arrest for attempting to help, and how she was unsuccessful in filing a complaint with the police department as the NDPD sent out DiFrancesco (the one who ran over the dog with his police-issued SUV) to accept her complaint. Spencer wrote that the dogs were no threat to anyone, simply scared and needing help:
Hey Newark Delaware Police Department you just threatened to arrest the person that CALLED animal control on the two loose, terrified dogs on the side of Ogletown road. I am appalled by the fact that approx. 10-12 of your officers have failed to simply detain these clearly non-aggressive dogs in OVER 45 MINUTES. Not to mention most of your officers wielding tasers/weapons instead of catch poles and protective gear.
Spencer also said she was taken aback at the NDPD’s lack of training and proper equipment to handle the situation.
The incompetence is truly eye opening. Your animal control officer literally failed to use a catch pole, a tool I’ve used a multitude of time in my years at the Delaware SPCA. One of your officers charged the dogs, then ran away, taunting them. I suggest you examine the people you’re hiring that are supposed to know animal behavior and care for the well-being of creatures. I’ll let attitude from the cop who tried to arrest me slide, but only because I know it runs in the fucking business.
Update: after Officer Keating (squad car #935) shot the dog, she turned around and looked at me and my two friends and gave us a THUMBS UP. She’s the same one who threatened to arrest me.
Update #2: according to witnesses, one of your officers HIT ONE OF THE DOGS WITH HIS POLICE VEHICLE. This is truly unacceptable and disturbing.
Update #3: went to the police station to file a report to an “impartial supervisor.” He told us that he’s the one that ran over the dog with his police SUV. Unreal.
***JUST SO EVERYONE IS CLEAR*** I was threatened with arrest if I neared the dogs. OBVIOUSLY my first instinct was to save them. I’ve devoted my life to them. When the dogs came up to me, I was screamed at, and told to back off. Please stop accusing me of not doing enough to save them.
Unfortunately, in the United States, police officers are allowed to investigate themselves, even in cases where their officers are accused by members of the public of intentional homicide. As long as there is no federal law requiring police departments to be investigated by outside agencies, not only will police officers continue to be allowed to kill family pets, they will also continue to be allowed to kill family members.
We at TFTP believe the two actions—killing an animal and killing a human—are related. When police officers are so desensitized to the point that they can kill someone’s pet, they will have no trouble killing a human, and often do, even when that person is as unarmed as those stray dogs were in Newark, Delaware.