JULY 23, 2015 UPDATE: Disturbing details about the shooting of Buster, a 14-year-old Pit Bull, have surfaced.
The city of Alton, Ill., let its one animal control officer go last week. Starting yesterday, its police department took over those duties, even though the officers had no training in how to deal with animals.
That same day, two of those police officers shot and killed a Pit Bull mix only because he had an injured leg.
According to several comments on the KMOV.com Facebook page, the dog had been hit by a car and was limping outside a Family Dollar store. Two women called animal control. The police officers who arrived coaxed the dog into their squad car, telling the women and a few other onlookers they were taking him to a veterinarian.
The officers initially said the veterinarian euthanized the dog, according to various Facebook commenters. But when asked for the name of the vet, the officers admitted they shot the dog themselves.
“They felt there was no other alternative, so they took the dog in and euthanized the dog with their weapons,” Jackie Spiker, co-founder of the nonprofit Hope Animal Rescues, told KMOV.com.
“It was the first full day [animal control] was dropped in the lap of the Alton Police Department and it was chaos.”
Public Information Officer Emily Hejna insists Alton’s police officers really do love animals.
“I think it is a very unfortunate situation,” she told KMOV.com. “Our officers are not trained animal control officers and they make decisions with the information they have been given.”
According to Illinois’ Animal Control Act (and common sense and decency, it would seem), an injured dog should not be shot multiple times. The dog should be taken to a veterinarian, who can check for a microchip and notify the dog’s owner before taking any further action.
The dog killed by the Alton police officers was microchipped.
“Let’s come up with a solution so that we can keep a functioning animal control and not put Alton police officers who are not properly trained — and that’s not their fault, they are police officers, they are not animal control officers — so that what happened to this dog never happens again,” Spiker told KMOV.com.
She and others met with Alton Police Chief Jason A. Simmons after the shooting yesterday to discuss more humane ways for officers to deal with animals. Simmons told her he was willing to work on better solutions.
Spiker will meet with Alton Mayor Brant Walker on Friday. A city council meeting tomorrow night is expected to be packed.
Across the country, far too many dogs have been shot and killed by police officers who have had no training in how to deal with them. According to Ozymandias Media, which is producing the documentary “Puppycide” on the topic, a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes.
In 2013, Colorado became the first state to pass a “Dog Protection Act,” which requires all law enforcement officers to undergo training in dealing with dogs. In May, Texas enacted a law that requires a statewide comprehensive training program in dog encounters to be created by Jan. 1, 2016.
This is a start, but as these sad statistics make clear, teaching law enforcement officers how to humanely deal with dogs should be required in every state. Officers who choose to treat dogs inhumanely should be charged with animal cruelty.
Photo via Facebook