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Every 98 Minutes a Dog is Shot by Law Enforcement

Every 98 Minutes a Dog is Shot by Law Enforcement

Heartbreaking stories of dogs being shot by police officers continue to make the news, while countless Youtube videos of incidents, Facebook memorial pages and petitions calling for justice for the lost lives of these four-legged family members continue to follow.

Directors Michael Ozias and Patrick Reasonover have set out to tell their stories through Puppycide, a feature-length documentary that explores the lives and bonds of owners and dogs of all shapes and sizes, whose tales sadly ended in gunfire. The documentary also explores owners’ battles for justice in a system that seems to shield law enforcement officers from any consequences of their split-second, yet life shattering, decisions to pull the trigger.

After reaching out to victims, Reasonover discovered that media accounts were only the tip of the iceberg, telling the National Review that figuring out how many dogs are killed by law enforcement isn’t an easy task because police departments don’t keep easily accessible records of dog shootings.

However, what is known makes it clear that it’s an ongoing problem and one that needs to be dealt with. A report from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, found that in most police departments the majority of intentional firearm discharges involve animals, with the most frequent victims being dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also concluded that almost half of firearm discharges involve incidents with dogs and stated that while some incidents may be justified, many of the reports coming in involve family pets being killed on their own property.

Some officers act with common sense and compassion when it comes to dogs, but many others do not. If an officer feels “threatened,” shooting a dog can be justified, but that sets a low bar for what they’re allowed to do. Many don’t seem to be able to properly gauge when they’re actually in danger. They’re also rarely provided with the training or tools regarding canine behavior and the use of non-lethal alternatives, including batons, pepper spray, tasers and chemical capture.

Some of the horrific stories were totally unnecessary and involve dogs being shot from behind while they’re running away or while leashed, on a catchpole, laying down or simply standing with a toy in their mouths. In many instances, owners aren’t given the opportunity to secure their dogs before officers shoot.

Many won’t admit to needlessly shooting a dog, but even when no wrongdoing is admitted by law enforcement agencies, some cases have resulted in payouts. Roger and Sandi Jenkins sued after sheriff’s deputies unlawfully entered their property and shot their dog Brandi. The jury found that their constitutional rights had been violated and returned a $620,000 verdict in their favor, including $200,000 for emotional distress.

The film’s creators are quick to note that their intent is not to villainize law enforcement officers, but to raise awareness about a problem that is clearly more pervasive than we believe it is and highlight those who are working towards change. Hopefully this will in turn lead to better training for officers on how to handle situations with dogs that won’t result in their death.

For more information on this documentary, visit

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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5:56AM PDT on Jul 26, 2015

No more tragedies of this kind

1:51PM PDT on Jul 25, 2015

WTF??? Take Germany as an example, here something like that won´t happen!!!

6:43AM PDT on Aug 2, 2014

thanks for sharing

8:29PM PDT on Apr 26, 2014

Who do these people think they are?

4:23PM PST on Dec 23, 2013

Some of this behavior is attributed to a growing …. "militaristic" mentality to a shift during the War on Drugs,

which "basically gives police

a carte blanche

to do what they want

and get away with it."

Other factors include the types of individuals who are attracted to policing.

Police love a chase. It attracts people who get a thrill from chasing. But has become obvious that it's so important to have rules and a chain of command that curb that behavior. "There's a strong instinct to catch the bad guy as a cop. That's what you do. ... And it's fun. And the adrenaline's flowing. ... So you have to assume that cops will want to chase you …. AND capture you once they have started the chase.

We have to teach officers to try to interact with people and realize that not everybody in a given neighborhood is a thug or a criminal, they're not all out to hurt you. Police used to walk in community’s and got to know people. Now, not at all. They ride around in cars racing to every situation. Again, the thrill of the chase.

Data suggests that current training is only exacerbating this psychological bias. Psychology Professor Dennis Rosenbaum is studying officers and has found that they come out of police academy already having a bias toward use of force.

4:22PM PST on Dec 23, 2013

They also often go overboard in these situations and physically abuse people unnecessarily. Again the adrenaline is a factor, but there is also the conscious decision to really hurt and beat the crap out of someone.

But, …. just because an officer doesn't have a non-deadly tool on hand doesn't change the standard for using lethal force. Under federal and most local policies, officers are permitted to use deadly force "in defense of yourself or a third party who can reasonably be said to be in danger of grievous bodily injury or death." "The key word is reasonable.”

"If you should be using nonlethal force and your nonlethal weapon doesn't work as is appropriate, then why are you turning to a lethal force weapon when nonlethal is appropriate?" … "Just because your nonlethal doesn't work, doesn't hike the use of force continuum to lethal, so that makes no sense."!!!!

'Militaristic' Policing

(So it is no wonder as we consider this that these armed men will shoot dogs without a 2nd thought).

4:21PM PST on Dec 23, 2013

Once police turn to their guns, protocol is to aim for the chest or head and to keep shooting until the threat is removed. In other words, they are aiming to inflict grievous bodily harm if not death - not minor injury. So why are police turning to a deadly weapon simply to incapacitate an unknown threat when other, lesser measures, might do?

Tasers were designed as a nonlethal option for incapacitating a suspect. But they have been clouded in controversy for their inappropriate use, and for their potential to sometimes prove fatal. Taser’s rarely used instead of a gun. Frequently, this is because cops don't carry the Taser with them when they leave the vehicle. Yet it may also be a good thing that… cops don't carry Tasers more frequently because they are "vastly overused."

Another weapon officers have is their own force, which … officers should use more frequently, but training and fear get in the way. "It should be a hands-on job, but the people who make the rules don't like that because they get sued and cops get hurt, and so they go for this notion of hands-off policing," he said. "One crazy person, six cops, grab the mxxxxrfxxxxr, and six people can take out one person."

12:38PM PST on Dec 23, 2013

Trigger happy cops...

5:30PM PST on Dec 13, 2013

I don't even begin to understand how law officers can be committing this murder. And it is no less than murder

10:17PM PST on Dec 3, 2013

Give a thug a gun and he will use it! I understand that policemen have a stressful scary job to perform, but shooting dogs is distasteful and cruel! Yes, there are some dangerous dogs in the world, I had a huge pit bull try to attack my leashed doxen. The owner of said dog accuse me of being at fault for the attack. Huh? He confused me, because his dog was not restrained at the cafe we are regulars at.

Some sensitivity training should be in order for these policemen that shoot dogs!

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