Shocking research by the ASPCA shows that 50% or more of all police firearm discharges involve cops shooting dogs. In far too many of these cases, the dogs posed no actual threat — the officers had little to no animal training, and made a split-second decision that ended a dog’s life forever.
Many of these shootings happen when police officers arrive at the wrong address, killing innocent dogs when the cops should have never been there in the first place.
In 2015, Cindy Boling was devastated by the loss of her dog, Lilly. According to Boling a police officer entered her backyard and shot her beloved dog for no reason. The officer had mistakenly showed up to the wrong home. Boling told INSIDE EDITION “we found our Lilly dying in the backyard…You hold her and you scream and you ask ‘God why?”
— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) March 29, 2016
In 2015, a Florida City police officer came to a household to notify the owners that their car door was open. When the family opened the front door their excited two-year-old dog Dutchess ran out to greet the officer. Before the family even knew why the officer was there, they watched as their beloved Dutchess was shot in the head three times, slowly bleeding to death by their front door.
With 37% of American households including dogs as members of the family, police officers are bound to encounter the animals frequently. The Animal Legal Defense Fund states that “when a police officer kills someone’s companion animal, it deeply affects the animal’s human family, as well as the officer, the neighborhood, and the community.”
This makes it crucial for law enforcement officers to undergo animal training that teaches them how to understand dog behavior, as well as safe ways to manage aggressive or unpredictable dogs. In crisis situations there can be little time for the officer to properly analyze the situation. Misunderstandings lead to numerous dog killings that could have easily been prevented.
Some police departments — like the one in New Haven, Connecticut — are enlisting the help of dog behavior experts to teach officers how to deal with aggressive animals and defuse situations without using lethal force. Dog behavior expert Brian Kilcommons told INSIDE EDITION, “we are trying to help people, especially police officers, so their day doesn’t have to be ruined, the dog doesn’t have to die and owners don’t have to be heartbroken.”
Animal lovers are creating organizations to track these shootings, as well. Groups run by activists and researchers, such as the Puppycide Database Project, collect news articles, court documents and police reports in order to produce a comprehensive database.
Although animal training still remains grossly inadequate in most precincts, the growing awareness and increased efforts by law enforcement bring some hope that the number of tragic dog shootings will start to decline. Let’s hope change happens swiftly.