Since When Is Animal Cruelty Part Of Police Policy?

What I’m about to share isn’t a new news story. It isn’t something that requires action because news of its resolution a few days ago is what made me aware of it at all. But it does require questions. Policy changes and resetting a lot of people’s minds that are made up by mass media and fear. Because when a police officer can brutally murder a dog, someone’s pet that has not harmed anyone or even caused noise complaints or property damage, and the police department says that that’s within their policy. No, I’m sorry. That is not okay.

I know what I just said probably sounds crazy to most people. How can a police officer shoot a dog FIVE times when the dog was not attacking him, and be considered innocent of animal cruelty or murder? But that’s what happened, and even more disturbing is the circumstances leading up to that shooting (which was all caught on video and used in court).

In November 2012, a neighbor, Kenny Collins, called police about an unfamiliar dog roaming his Commerce City, Colorado neighborhood. Police and Commerce City’s equivalent to an animal control officer were both dispatched to check it out. It turns out that Collins’ neighbor was dog-sitting for her cousin who was traveling to California. The woman had left the dog, Chloe, in her garage when she left to go shopping. She was certain she closed the garage, but Chloe must have tripped the sensor, opening it.

Chloe

Chloe

Collins stated that the dog did not approach him or anyone else and was not acting in an aggressive manner, not even towards the officer and animal control agent. Once they arrived on the scene, Chloe went back to the garage. You would think that this would end there. The officers would try to contact the owner of the home or wait for them, but no. If this had been the case this story would have likely had a happy ending.

The officers waited for thirty minutes, supposedly debating on what to do, when they suddenly tased Chloe, who at this point was still inside of the garage. Chloe dropped and then further retreated inside the garage, but that wasn’t enough for them. They advanced on Chloe again, so she tried to escape, and came out of the garage (not charging and not directly towards officers) when the animal control agent successfully and securely captured Chloe on a catch pole, and then or whatever reason Chloe was tased again. After Chloe was tased and on said catch pole, the police officer (let’s call him murderer really), Robert Price, shot Chloe five times. Not once. Not twice. Not three times, not four. FIVE TIMES.

Chloe Option 2

To be clear, Chloe was never aggressive or confrontational to the officers. She retreated and then tried to get away from them. She did not have any complaints lodged at her, just a concerned neighbor saying he didn’t recognize her as a neighborhood dog. Many neighbors were outraged by the incident; at Robert Price firing his weapon in a suburban neighborhood with a lot of children. One of his bullets hit a nearby car. And Collins’ son got the whole thing on video. Collins himself was horrified and angry. He watched the whole thing and said again and again that Chloe never acted aggressively towards either of the officers. Collins said even the animal control officer looked upset and horrified when Price went rogue and shot and killed Chloe.

Such a thing is horrible, and yet all too common. I had no idea until I started writing this the disturbing and shocking pattern of police shooting household pets in the last couple of years. It is sickening and inexcusable. The Adams county DA agreed and pursued charges against Price. But he was found not guilty. (HOW? THE FUCK?)

This story has as happy of an ending as it can: Chloe’s owner sued the city and won. Not only won, but was awarded the largest settlement of its kind in American history – $262,500. Now I love my dog, and if I had to choose between my dog and a six-figure sum, it wouldn’t even be a complete thought process. My dog, of course! I know Chloe’s owner feels the same way, but since that can’t happen, hopefully this is some kind of consolation. A message has been sent – take that Commerce City!

I think what horrified me beyond what happened was the police department’s stance that Price acted within police procedure. And this got me thinking, what kind of police procedure encourages animal cruelty? Apparently, Commerce City’s police procedure does, or it did. Because the same thing happened in 2010 to a dog named Zoey. An officer responding to an accidental 911 call (they were informed everything was fine, it was a misdial, like anyone with kids knows can happen). The family dog, Zoey, barked at the officer and approached. Zoey didn’t growl or snarl or bare its teeth. Zoey also never reached the officer who shot Zoey dead when she was still twenty feet away. Again, the police department defended the officer, Suzanne Barber, and said her actions were justified. How? A dog barked and approached a stranger. Does no one in the police department own a dog? That’s what they do! Zoey did not growl, charge or attack. And Zoey was in her yard. Seriously?

Zoey

Zoey

These shootings prompted legislation Senate Bill 13-326 mandating that officers are properly trained to handle dog-related calls. But the realist in me (not the cynic, because to this day the police department and city offices have said that the killings of Chloe and Zoey were completely justified) wonders if it’s enough. What bothers me so much is that this was ever a problem in the first place. That animal cruelty was an accepted part of police procedure and that Commerce City felt victimized by the outrage these senseless and preventable killings sparked. Double jeopardy is a thing, and they have already been sued. So why not say, “Sorry, we fucked up. It won’t happen again.”

And what is even more alarming is that this pattern extends beyond one misguided and backwards department. I don’t want to make this post a full-length novel, but these patterns have occurred throughout the country. Seriously, just Google it. Why? When did killing household pets become an accepted norm among law enforcement. I understand that while regrettable, certain actions are justified. If a dog is attacking a person in the moment and there is legitimate fear for their safety – okay, it happens. It sucks, but it happens. But these cases – these are not that. And many of the cases I came across happening in other areas of the country – they are not that either.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t believe in killing animals for the sake of killing them. Or just because. Or just in case. Their lives matter, just like the lives of ALL people matter. (This is not a throwback to “All Lives Matter” because I think that hashtag/movement is offensive and a joke. There are legitimate racial prejudices that cause officers to be more trigger-happy with certain people, but this post is not about that.)

Puppycide

I do know one thing, doing research for this post made me sick to my stomach – I couldn’t eat for hours. And after, I just wanted to snuggle with my fur babies and call it a day. My dog (and cat) would never hurt anyone. But if someone treated them the way these officers acted, I’d probably go to jail for losing my damn mind. Enough said – I’m done.

-DMW

*This is the raw video footage showing what occurred that fateful November 2012 morning when Robert Price killed Chloe after she had already been captured and tased. It is graphic. I seriously beg you, unless you absolutely have to, to spare yourselves from watching it. I, could not, but as it’s a video that has gone viral and been used in multiple court proceedings, I know its contents, so I don’t need to. It’s here for those that do need to see – but again once you see something, it can’t be unseen. Remember that.

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