When Cops Kill Innocent Pets
Police kill a lot of companion animals across the country. Most of them are dogs, as in some of the stories Care2 Causes has reported: a Nevada cop ran over and killed Freckles just for approaching a group of children, even though he wasn’t a threat; a police officer in Missouri shot a dog dead after he was already down on the ground, secured by a catch-pole — and hadn’t injured anyone; and a Colorado cop shot and killed a dog who was standing unaggressively in her own driveway.
The police who kill pets who aren’t posing a threat obviously don’t have any consideration for the animals. But they also don’t care about the feelings of their human families.
In a recent New York City case, the victim was a parakeet named Tito. Police officers forced their way into a house while chasing a man because of a single traffic cone on the side of the road. They knocked over Tito’s cage in the process, releasing the bird. A daughter of the home’s owner screamed, “the bird!”
“F–k the bird,” a cop answered her, and crushed Tito to death under his shoe right in front of her. He had no reason to do it. The woman’s distress didn’t give the officer a moment’s pause (or maybe, sickeningly, he enjoyed it).
The mother of the household, Evelyn Lugo, didn’t learn about Tito’s death until the next day, because her daughters feared that when she heard the news she would become hysterical. The revelation would come on top of the trauma she had already experienced when the police invaded and trashed her home and beat and arrested her children to chase one son, who hadn’t done anything to merit that kind of abuse by government officials.
The Daily News reported that Lugo’s 26-year-old son, Edwin Avellanet, was taking a bag of garbage outside from his family’s Labor Day barbecue. The police stopped and questioned him about an orange construction cone by the curb reserving a parking spot in front of Lugo’s house. Avellanet refused the cops’ demand to see his ID, saying he hadn’t done anything wrong. New York law says people don’t have to show their ID to cops, but one of the police officers grabbed Avellanet’s arm when he refused to. Avellanet pulled himself loose and got into the house.
This incensed the cops enough to start smashing the house’s windows. When Lugo opened the front door they rushed inside, where they beat and arrested innocent people and trashed property, including busting a door in half.
They beat Avellanet’s brother and his friend on their heads and faces with their batons. Pictures of their partially-healed injuries are available at the Daily News. They traumatized Lugo’s grandchildren with pepper spray. The officers arrested one daughter just for leaving the room to escape the pepper spray — because she is asthmatic. They also arrested two other brothers (Lugo has 10 children), but ironically, they never did arrest Avellanet, according to Vice.com. All charges against the people they did arrest were dropped, probably due to their high quotient of bogusness.
The family has sued the the Police Department.
Lugo told the Daily News afterwards, “They (the cops) don’t care about us as humans, they’re going to care about the bird?” Further evidence of their indifference to humans: they threw 57-year-old Lugo, who was not a suspect, to the floor “like a piece of garbage.”
It isn’t news that most people don’t give a hoot about the feelings or interests of non-human animals. Exhibit A: 96.8 percent of Americans eat them.
Pet-killing cops take that widely-shared indifference a step further. They either can’t understand or don’t care that people have relationships with their companion animals, and that hurting pets physically hurts people emotionally.
The officials of other branches of the legal system have the same dark hole in their hearts that many cops do. The courts, for example, dismiss claims that people suffer when their pets suffer. If a neighbor negligently kills my cat and I sue, in the vast majority of cases the most I can hope to get is the cat’s market value. As if the market value of an elderly cat — which is just this side of zero — comes anywhere close to reflecting her value to me. That isn’t to say that any amount of money could cure my grief; it just shows how little judges and legislators grasp people’s love for their pets.
Some might defend the system by noting that people’s deaths are valued in the same way. If someone kills a woman, courts will calculate her potential economic value to her family — i.e., her market value — and award that amount to her survivors. But the case doesn’t end there. There will also be an award for the survivors’ emotional distress. Try getting a judge to order the neighbor to compensate me for my distress over my cat’s death. A few lawyers have succeeded, but they are fighting a battle that is so uphill it is nearly vertical.
Another judicial example involves custody battles over a pet in a divorce case. Family Court judges are likely to treat the dog just like the couple’s car, awarding him to one spouse or the other. Forget about sharing the dog so neither party has to lose him — judges wouldn’t do that for a car, so they wouldn’t do it for a dog. Again, some lawyers are succeeding in persuading judges that pets’ interests, possibly including a joint visitation schedule, should be considered in divorce disputes, but that is far from the norm.
Police officers have our permission to carry guns and use violence. They should use that power to protect and serve all of our interests, including our devotion to our companion animals. They defend us against hold-ups, when we are unlikely to lose anything of sentimental value. Then they themselves steal from us when they kill cherished pets. Whether an easy solution like better training will work (Freckles’ guardian thought it would have saved her dog’s life) or something more serious, like revamping hiring practices to screen out sickos, is necessary, the police force has got to stop robbing people of the creatures they adore.