Could you imagine coming home after running errands and finding a handwritten note on your front door left by your local police that says “Police responded to your residence to investigate a burglar alarm. While circling the rear perimeter, lab advanced on officers in a threatening manner before being shot and killed.”
That’s what happened to Mary Kate Hallock in Oakland, California on September 28th. The Yellow Labrador Retriever was Gloria, an 11 year old arthritic dog who was known to love everyone and everything. She was shot three times and killed while in the line of duty, protecting her property. Mary Kate is a school teacher and she used to take Gloria to the classroom with her. The students all adored her and Gloria just loved everyone she met.
I didn’t personally know Gloria, but I sobbed when I first heard this story. I have a middle aged Yellow Labrador, and I know that Sanchez would bark profusely if an uninvited visitor entered his backyard. But, I also know if that uninvited visitor brought a piece of chicken or cheese with him, he’d be his best friend for life and never forget him. So why did the Oakland police officer pull out a gun instead of a milkbone?
Gloria (pictured above) was a member of the Hallock family – with parents Ward and Mary Kate and siblings Matthew and Isabel. I spoke with Mary Kate Hallock, owner of Gloria, earlier this week. I asked her what her initial reaction was to the note. “Total disbelief. I read it eight or ten times and couldn’t understand what the note was saying. I was completely frozen. I was afraid to go downstairs, in fear that I would see Gloria’s dead body.
“Ward went to pick up Gloria’s dead body the next day, so we could say good-bye. We are a family of five, not four. Three weeks after the incident, my children still expect Gloria to just walk back in their lives. And I still haven’t been able to obtain a police report. I would love to know how this happened. Was there any struggle? I’m trying not to jump to any conclusions, but three weeks ago a sergeant told me that as soon as the police report was available, it would be delivered to us. I was told it just needed to be reviewed by higher ups because force was involved. It makes me suspicious that I still haven’t seen the report.”
In 2009, eight dogs were killed by Oakland Police. Although nothing can be done to bring Gloria or these other dogs back, actions are being taken to make sure this doesn’t happen again, or an incident similar to when an Oakland police officer shot and killed a young deer that had entered a residential neighborhood.
The East Bay SPCA is entering into a partnership with the Oakland Police Department and providing free animal sensitivity training to the entire staff of 679 officers. The mandatory training will be required once a year and will also include continuing education after that. The goal of the SPCA is to train the police officers to help better prepare them in understanding animals when encountering them during the course of their jobs.
The animal sensitivity training starts early next month and will cost the East Bay SPCA the equivalent of one staff member’s full time salary. Ingrid McKenney, Director of Development and Marketing said:
“The Oakland Police Department has been extremely receptive to this partnership and mandatory training. While the curriculum is still being identified, we are modeling other programs that are already in place with other SPCA’s. The goal is to educate police officers in animal body language and what they are telling us. We’d like to see the Oakland Police use some method other than force with animals. And we believe that all starts with humane education.”
A huge challenge that police face is that conflicting actions are needed when a crime is in progress and when a dog is present. It’s important to make noise so as to not surprise a dog in their backyard, but that same noise will also warn an armed burglar that you are there and can threaten your life.
When I asked Mary Kate how she wanted Gloria’s memory to live on, she responded: “The East Bay SPCA has started a terrific educational program. My hope is that another family doesn’t have to go through what we experienced. Once the hype of this story goes away, I hope that humane education continues to prevent the loss of more innocent animals.”
What do you think of the new animal sensitivity training taking place between the East Bay SPCA and the Oakland Police Department? Should this be mandatory with all police departments and their local SPCA or Humane Society? Thanks for posting your thoughts below.
Image: Gloria in her senior years