Adams Morgan shooting: In defense of the dog

As many of you know, a dog was shot and killed by a police officer at the Adam’s Morgan Day festivities yesterday. Multiple eye witnesses say that “Parrot”, a pitbull mix, got into a fight with a smaller teacup poodle. After the fight began, Parrot’s handler was able to subdue the dog and calm him down enough that the other dog escaped without injury.

Parrot minutes before shooting

The scuffle caught the attention of the police, who rushed to the scene when they heard the commotion. Different people tell the story differently, but Parrot’s handler says the police knocked him out of the way, forcefully subdued Parrot, and then instead of waiting, simply threw the dog down a flight of stairs of a nearby store, where he was shot and killed at point blank range. This retelling is consistent with many other eye witness accounts. The dog was at the festival for dog adoption day. Nobody was seriously injured. Both dogs were leashed. The only person bit was the handler, when he subdued him.

If the situation described is true, the officers should be hung out to dry for this. Yes, I know that some facts  are in “dispute.” Most of these facts relate to how out of control the dog actually was. However, I can’t think of any restatement of the facts that would leave me less disgusted by this. They shot and killed a dog at point blank range during  a family event simply because he got into a fight with another dog. Not one person was seriously hurt.

He seems restrained to me

Further, not only was the action seemingly overzealous, but it was unnecessarily cruel. It takes a certain type of person to throw an animal down a flight of stairs and shoot him in the back of the head. The dog wasn’t rabid, nobody was even hurt! If the dog was mean (which from witness accounts I am inclined not to believe), why wasn’t animal control called? Why wasn’t it restrained and led away? My father is a veterinarian, I have seen the most deranged of dogs restrained and treated at the clinic. Don’t TELL me killing was the only recourse.

Finally, for those of you that claim negligence for bringing a pitbull to adoption day, shame on you as well. Not only do many breeds show dog-aggression, but many pitbulls do not. Most pitbulls, like other breeds, can be the sweetest of things if raised right. You have to ask yourself, if it were a lab or a golden retriever, would you advocate the same response? This is one particular case with one particular dog, so you better be prepared to say yes.

In the end, trigger happy police officers are more a threat to the public than a dog could ever be. Shame on Fenty for endorsing this.

Condolences to the handler, the agency and the witnesses.

10 thoughts on “Adams Morgan shooting: In defense of the dog

  1. I think you jumped the gun (so to speak) on this post. Several facts are still in dispute. And as you acknowledge, “most of these facts relate to how out of control the dog actually was.” You appear to mean that dismissively, but that’s the central issue, so why the rush to judgment?

  2. Because, if I am honest, I can’t conceive of any additional facts that would make me change my mind. There is no level of “out of control” that would be consistent with the facts of the case (i.e. the dog was on leash, not rabid etc), to warrant such a violent response.

    I mean, if the dog were Cujo, then maybe. But that is assuming the dog was so powerful and demented it was incapable of being restrained by any number of men (or animal control), and the police exhausted every possible option of trying to take the dog away peacefully, until as a measure of extreme last resort they killed him (though let’s be honest, the dog probably wouldn’t have remained leashed if it were Cujo).

    No chance that was the case. At the end of the day, an animal was just killed. Its life should have been highly valued, but it wasn’t.

  3. Animal Control officers capture & subdue fractious dogs everyday in every major metropolitan area in America. Only if the dog was actively threatening humans at the time the officers arrived on scene could they possibly justify killing the animal. It sounds as if the adoption agency volunteer had already regained control of the dog. So, sorry John, but I agree with my fellow spy that, if the dog was docile and social enough to be up for adoption, I can’t imagine it was a threat to human life at the time of its death.

  4. Well said. The throwing down the stairs is very disturbing. What is the point of throwing an animal down the stairs (let alone shooting it) when it is subdued as shown in the above image? Even if the investigation ends in the officer’s favor (which I hope it won’t because it sounds as if he warrants disciplinary action in my opinion), he better sign him self up for some animal handling classes at the local humane society. And perhaps he should be ordered to watch 100 hours of The Dog Whisperer to educate himself about how to properly handle aggressive animals without endangering their lives and the lives of the humans around them.

  5. The people who are saying “don’t jump the gun” are missing out on the gratuitous cruelty of this incident. There was absolutely no excuse for taking a dog that was already subdued (shown without a doubt by the photo) and then hurling him down a flight of stairs and shooting him. That isn’t SOP for any police manual, and supposedly this guy was a trained dog handler.

    Even before being shot, his last moments must have been of pain and terror –the way he was dealt with is cruelty bordering on psychosis. The way people treat animals is an indicator of how they will treat people. This guy should not be on the force.

  6. A similar situation took place at the P Street park in Dupont Circle about 2 years ago when a dog was shot on Christmas Eve. What’s even more disturbing is what happened afterwards. I walked my dog regularly there, but after the shooting, I was harrassed by a DC police officer who screamed at me from his squad car, “Keep your dog on leash, or I’ll shoot him! A dog was shot here before.” My dog is always on leash, but after being regularly harrassed by this officer, I stopped going to that park. And the officer who shot the dog at the recent Festival clearly over-reacted. As a resident of DC for over 25 years, I’m saddened by the recent killings of so many dogs… Wasn’t there another dog shot at the fountain at Dupont Circle over the summer? Where’s the Humane Society in these cases? Isn’t cruelty to animals a crime? and why aren’t these police officers subject to the same laws that citizens are subjected to? These cases should be tried and juried.

  7. The account are not in agreement – several people have said Aaron Block did not have the dog under control. Furthermore, it’s been reported that he’s said the dog has gotten “excited” in crowds. Also, the police officer in question was a K9 officer, trained to work with dogs.

    Is it reasonable to believe that this officer involved himself in the matter because he saw or perceived that Aaron Block did not have control of the dog? Yes.

    Is it reasonable to believe that this officer felt the dog posed a danger to the officer, or to people in the crowd? Considering another dog, Block, and the officer all sustained injuries, I would say yes.

    And believing that the dog posed a danger, was it reasonable to believe that throwing it down a stairwell would either A.) incapacitate or stun the dog long enough for it to be able to be removed alive from the scene or, if not B.) would provide a sheltered area where use of lethal force against a dangerous animal would have minimal impact on the crowd? I would have to say yes.

    I don’t think this situation is at all the fault of the dog’s: from what I’ve read, Block had a short history with the animal and wasn’t aware of it’s full bite history (I’ve been bitten by a dog, and the owner told me, “It’s never bitten anyone before”). He’s also said the dog could be excited by large crowds. Further, from what I understand, to calm a dog down when it becomes frantic, it’s best to isolate the animal: hard to do in the middle of a huge crowd of people.

    I think Parrot IS the victim here, but not of the conduct of MPD. The officer had to make a quick decision and he chose to shoot the dog rather than risk injuries to anyone else. This whole thing started either when Parrot bit, or was bitten by, a poodle. The real culprit is which animal’s owner failed to control their dog.

  8. Interesting, people will find reasonable arguments for what they believe . . .
    M. Snay, in your own blog you cited a woman who agreed with your view and believed her to be very experienced with handling large dogs (although her only anecdote with that was some sort of visual face down with a resource guarder from whom she grabbed a dog dish from the floor–her instance was vague and not indicative of what exactly happened.)

    Yet you give no creedence to a person’s point of view whose father was a veterinarian who had to subdue terrified dogs numerous times in the course of his work, when she states that dogs like this can be subdued by knowledgeable people without harm to dog or human . . .

    Ironically, if none of the officers felt qualified handling the dog, they probably would have left him in Aaron Block’s custody and this would be a non-story.

    Here’s an interesting perspective from Radley Balko who’s reported for the Daily Beast on this subject and he compares the lack of training officers get to the training that mail carrier’s get in dealing with dog’s.

    A selection from the article with link below:
    “If dangerous dogs are so common, one would expect to find frequent

    reports of vicious attacks on meter readers, postal workers, firemen, and

    delivery workers. But according to a spokesman from the United States

    Postal Service, serious dog attacks on mail carriers are vanishingly rare.

    Bites do happen, but postal workers are given training on how to distract

    dogs with toys, subdue them with voice commands, or, at worst,

    incapacitate them with Mace. Mail carriers are shown a two-hour video

    and given instruction on how to recognize and read a dog’s body

    language, how to differentiate between aggressive charging and playful

    bounding, and how to tell a truly dangerous dog from a merely territorial

    one.

    Few police departments offer this kind of training, though groups like the

    ASPCA and the Humane Society say they’d be more than happy to

    provide it. “New York is the only state I know of that mandates

    formalized training, and that’s during academy,” says Joseph Pentangelo,

    the ASPCA’s assistant director for law enforcement, who also served 21

    years with the NYPD before retiring in 2001. “There are some individual

    departments in other parts of the country that avail themselves of our

    training, but not many. Not enough.” (Omaha, Nebraska, just recently

    started requiring training after 39 dog-shooting incidents in little more than

    a year.)”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-07-19/dogs-in-a

    -deadly-crossfire/full/

  9. I guess what I’m saying is, whether mistakes were made by either or both Aaron and the owner of the poodle mix — doesn’t follow that it should end with someone who should know (and is being touted as knowing) something about dogs should throw it down stairs and shoot it.

    Had there been no one with a gun there that day, would the story now be–”Loose dog runs amok after dog fight, babies ripped from strollers and killed!”? No. People who know something about dogs know this. It would have ended as a civil matter between two dog owners.

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