When a woman flagged down a police officer on a street in Whitehall, Ohio, yesterday afternoon, telling him her sister, Andrea Ellis, had cut herself, the last thing she probably expected was that her 4-year-old niece, Ava, would end up being shot by the cop.
That’s what happened when, as the unidentified police officer stood in the front doorway of the Ellis family’s house, their pet dog ran toward him.
The officer drew his gun and fired a shot at the dog. Instead, the bullet possibly ricocheted and struck Ava’s leg.
After the shooting, the officer “seemed a little disoriented, like he was really bothered,” neighbor Norman Jones, who called the police after he heard the shot, told the Columbus Dispatch.
Neighbors said the Ellis family has two dogs, who both wear electronic shock collars that prevent them from leaving the house. Police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis told the Dispatch the dogs were put in the backyard after the incident.
According to the Columbus Division of Police Facebook page, Ava was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in stable condition. Her mother was treated for her cut at another hospital.
Iowa Woman Killed in January by Cop Shooting at Her Dog
This is at least the second time this year that a police officer has accidentally shot a person instead of a dog.
In January, 34-year-old Autumn Steele of Burlington, Iowa, was fatally shot by officer Jesse Hill, who had been aiming for Sammy, her German Shepherd. Hill was outside Steele’s home, responding to a domestic dispute, when Sammy began growling.
Hill told Steele to get her dog. When Sammy bit him, Hill fired two rounds, striking Steele in the chest and right arm. After an investigation, Hill was cleared of criminal charges and returned to work in March, according to the Des Moines Register.
Training Cops to Humanely Deal with Pet Dogs
Sadly, police officers tend to be gun happy when dealing with pet dogs who are just doing what comes naturally — protecting their families and property.
In fact, Ozymandias Media, which is producing the documentary “Puppycide” on the topic, reports that a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes.
“When an officer shoots a pet dog, it is traumatic for the officer, the animal and the community — something we want to mitigate as much as is possible,” Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA), said in a press release earlier this year.
In response to the shocking, viral 2013 video of a Hawthorne, Calif., police officer shooting a Rottweiler named Max as his owner begged him not to, spcaLA began offering the class, “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” to all police departments in California. Hawthorne police officers completed the class in January.
In 2013, Colorado became the first state to pass a “Dog Protection Act,” which requires similar training for law enforcement officers. Last month, Texas enacted a law (HB 593) that requires the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to establish a statewide comprehensive training program in dog encounters 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.
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