A rash of animal shootings by police officers nationwide has law-enforcement agencies running for cover amid growing public outrage that could force state legislatures to require greater accountability from men and women in uniform.
Police in Utah shot a family’s dog while searching for a lost boy, prompting hundreds of pet owners to protest June 28 in front of the Salt Lake City Police Department headquarters. They carried signs demanding “justice for Geist,” a 110-pound Weimaraner shot by a city cop within the dog’s fenced-in back yard. The “missing” boy was later found sleeping in his home.
State police in West Virginia shot a family’s dog June 24 as it was reportedly running away from them during a search for a suspect on adjoining property. Shots rang out even as the dog’s owner was screaming for officers to hold their fire and let her put her dog inside.
In Maryland, two Baltimore police officers were charged last week with animal cruelty after one of them allegedly held down Nala, a 7-year-old Shar-Pei, while the other slit the dog’s throat.
Richard Bruce Rosenthal, general counsel and co-founder of New York-based the Lexus Project, said police across the country are trending toward less tolerance and less respect for people’s pets, which he sees as part of a larger trend toward more aggressive policing tactics in America.
A pet is a person’s property, which should not be summarily executed for doing what dogs naturally do, which is to investigate unknown people or other dogs who approach their territory, he asserted.
“It is a growing problem and part of it is, post 9/11, our judicial system has basically trashed the Constitution under the mantle of security, and personal rights cease to exist,” Rosenthal told WND.
“All over the country we have cops shooting dogs for no other reason than they can. And our courts and our elected officials, rather than protecting the citizens and the Constitution, simply see it as a way to take more power and more money. I think it’s a civil-rights violation. I think it’s a constitutional violation.”
The West Virginia incident happened June 24 in a rural area of Mason County. A paramilitary unit scoured the woods bordering the property of 32-year-old Ginger Sweat. Her dog, a 6-year-old beagle-basset hound named Willy Pete, woke up from an afternoon snooze on his porch to the sound of eight officers coming out of the adjacent woods. Willy Pete scampered off to investigate. Sweat, who was putting one of her two young children down for a nap, looked out the window and saw an officer with a police dog on a leash emerge from the woods and ran out outside pleading with the officers not to shoot her dog, begging them to let her bring it inside.