Two Detroit Cops Shot Over 100 Dogs During Their Careers
It’s a terrible fact: An estimated 10,000 pet dogs are shot and killed by police officers in this country every year. Half of all intentional police shooting involve dogs, a 2012 study found. There’s even a term for it — “puppycide” — and the U.S. Justice Department has referred to these shootings as an epidemic.
How very fortunate that most cops aren’t like two members of the Detroit Police Department, or this statistic would be much, much higher. Between them, William Morrison and an unidentified officer have shot more than 100 dogs, according to an investigation by Reason.com.
Most of the shootings happened during drug busts. The police officers, claiming that “vicious” dogs were charging them and the shootings were justified, were cleared.
But the dogs’ owners — and often the evidence as well — had very different stories to tell.
Morrison had already shot 39 dogs during his career when he and other officers with a narcotics search warrant knocked on the door of Nikita Smith’s home in January. She put two of her pit bulls in the basement and a puppy in the bathroom. As the officers searched the house, one of the dogs escaped from the basement and, Smith says, sat down beside her. He was shot eight times by the officers, who then went down to the basement and shot the other dog, a pregnant female who had been backed into a corner, five times.
When the officers peeked into the bathroom and saw the puppy, they shot him multiple times through the door.
Smith was charged with marijuana possession, but the charges were dropped when the officers didn’t show up for her court date. She has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against them and the city of Detroit for what she calls the execution of her dogs.
The other trigger-happy Detroit police officer currently works in the Major Violators Unit (MVU). He has shot and killed at least 67 animals during his career. His name and badge number were redacted in the police records obtained by Reason.com.
Just a couple weeks after Smith’s dogs were killed, MVU officers broke down the door of a home where they believed marijuana was being sold. Nicole Motyka and Joel Castro put their three pit bulls in the kitchen behind a large wooden barrier.
You can probably guess what happened next. The officers claimed the dogs tried to attack them, so they shot and killed all three. The dogs’ bodies, however, were huddled together in a far corner of the kitchen.
The officers found 26 marijuana plants — which were perfectly legal, since Castro is a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver.
Teaching Cops to Deal with Pets Without Using Guns
As troubling as these cases are, steps are being taken across the country to prevent them.
In 2013, Colorado became the first state to pass a “Dog Protection Act,” which requires law enforcement officers to be trained in how to humanely deal with pets. Two years later, Texas enacted a law that required the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to establish a statewide comprehensive training program in dog encounters.
In response to a 2013 video that went viral showing a Hawthorne, Calif. police officer shoot a Rottweiler as the dog’s handcuffed owner begged him not to, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles began offering the class, “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” to all police departments in California.
Laws and programs like this are a great start, but as those sad puppycide statistics make clear, teaching law enforcement officers how to humanely deal with dogs should be required in every state. Officers with histories of dog shootings should not be allowed to work in situations where pets may be present.
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