I’m a dog person. I wholeheartedly love my pups. There’s a bond between my dogs and I that is irreplaceable, unbreakable and enduring. You know, it’s true what they say, dogs are “man’s best friend,” which is why it is so hard for me to talk objectively about this story. I’m biased, I’m going to side with the dog and its owner just based off of what I’ve seen.
Nevertheless, everyone is innocent until they’re proven guilty in a court of law. And I admit, I wasn’t there, I didn’t respond to the call, I’m not a law enforcement officer, so I’m not in a position to judge the officer’s actions.
At this point, I should probably introduce the story so you know what I’m talking about.
A police officer from Cleburne, Texas, fatally shot a pit bull that he believed was endangering his welfare and that of a woman who phoned 911 to complain about the dog and two other pit bulls that were allegedly growling at her and preventing her from exiting her vehicle.
The incident occurred back in August, but footage of the officer shooting the animal was released last week. It was recorded on his body camera, and it shows him making “kissing” noises at the dog before he opens fire, shooting three times and killing it.
According to the officer, the dog growled at him, showed its teeth which was in his eyes an aggressive posture that justified the use of deadly force. The other two dogs did not, and the officer had no problem corralling them while waiting for animal services to arrive.
Yet, not everyone agrees. In fact, there are many who vehemently disagree with the officers actions.
“To call the dog and act like you’re going to be sweet to the dog, and you just blatantly shoot it, I don’t think that’s right at all,” Virginia Granger, a neighborhood resident, told CBS DFW.
Likewise, Kristin Dodge who knows the owner of the dogs said that they were friendly to the neighborhood, including her children.
“These are people’s pets. These are people’s family. To see something like that happen wasn’t really necessary, I think,” said Dodge.
Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain says the department is looking into the matter, promising a thorough and transparent investigation.
“Just because the tail is wagging, it doesn’t tell the whole story,” Mayor Cain said. “We’re obviously looking into whether or not deadly force was appropriate with current policies. We’re looking at whether current policies are appropriate.”
What is also unfair and equally appalling is that the officer and his family are now receiving threats via social media. Even the dog’s owner, Quinton Tatum, believes the officer should not be subjected to death threats for his actions, which Tatum believes were completely unnecessary.
“I wish that people would stop threatening him, because justice will prevail,” Tatum told KHOU. “Let justice take care of itself.”
Agreed. Let the justice system handle the officer, who is currently on paid leave with his wife and family out of state.
Meanwhile, there is the question of when it is appropriate to shoot man’s best friend? As a dog lover, for me the threshold is pretty high, more than a reasonable person might imagine. I can think of three scenarios where I’d open fire on a dog:
1. If a dog is attacking a small child. Unfortunately, there are stories of this happening where a dog attacks a small, defenseless child. The results are typically tragic. In this circumstance, without hesitation, I would shoot and kill a dog.
2. If a dog is attacking my dogs or another member of my family. I’ve been to the dog park where there are a lot of other dogs. Sometimes a scrum will break out and its more bark than bite. That’s fine, the dogs just seem to be acting out with no real intent to do harm to one another. But then there are times when dogs go after other dogs with the intent to kill. It’s when a dog has a malicious or murderous intent to harm another dog that I think it’s justified in shooting the attacking dog, particularly if it is larger than my dog. I don’t know if one is ever justified in shooting those ankle biters (small to medium sized dogs). Typically, those dogs are harmless, even when they’re angry and out to kill.
3. If I’m in real, imminent danger. I’ve been bitten by dogs. It hurts, but I haven’t felt the need to shoot them. Typically, there is a way to deescalate the situation to avoid getting bit in the first place. Either the dog wants you to leave or back up or stay away from the owner of give it a toy or a piece of food, whatever it may be I can usually pick up on it and let the dog have whatever it is it wants. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt that I was in real danger. But if I was actively being attacked by one dog or on the precipice of being attacked by multiple dogs, then I would open fire. I would shoot to kill. But again, I’d exhaust every other option to de-escalate the situation.
Some would argue that waiting to get attacked before opening fire is an extremely dumb posture to take. After all, a 90-plus pound dog can do some damage in a matter of seconds, especially if it goes for one’s face and throat. I can’t argue that point. But knowing how I am, I don’t think I could fire on a dog until I felt I was in real danger, meaning it was attacking me with no sign of stopping. By that time, one could argue, it might be too late. The dog may have the upper hand and I may not be able to retrieve my weapon and shoot the attacking dog. And, again, I don’t have a counterargument. Just that it would be really tough for me to kill a dog.
My position may be crazy and extreme. I recognize that. Hopefully, I never have to test it out.
With all that said, what do you think about the officer? Was he justified in shooting the dog based on the available evidence? Also, when do you feel it is appropriate to shoot man’s best friend?