Puppycide in The Daily Beast

Monday, July 20th, 2009

I have a piece up at the The Daily Beast looking at the cops-shooting-dogs phenomenon.

Snippet:

If dangerous dogs are so common, one would expect to find frequent reports of vicious attacks on meter readers, postal workers, firemen, and delivery workers. But according to a spokesman from the United States Postal Service, serious dog attacks on mail carriers are vanishingly rare. Bites do happen, but postal workers are given training on how to distract dogs with toys, subdue them with voice commands, or, at worst, incapacitate them with Mace. Mail carriers are shown a two-hour video and given instruction on how to recognize and read a dog’s body language, how to differentiate between aggressive charging and playful bounding, and how to tell a truly dangerous dog from a merely territorial one.

Few police departments offer this kind of training, though groups like the ASPCA and the Humane Society say they’d be more than happy to provide it. “New York is the only state I know of that mandates formalized training, and that’s during academy,” says Joseph Pentangelo, the ASPCA’s assistant director for law enforcement, who also served 21 years with the NYPD before retiring in 2001. “There are some individual departments in other parts of the country that avail themselves of our training, but not many. Not enough.”

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

33 Responses to “Puppycide in The Daily Beast

  1. #1 |  Mike Healy | 

    It must be cheaper to just tell the “troops” to shoot first and tell the owner to shut-the-hell-up-if-you-know-what’s-good-for-you later.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    there are reports of cops shooting dogs during raids, dogs confined in their yards, dogs running up to cops who are on the owners’ properties to ask directions, etc. So many bad decisions and so much disregard for the public- this looks like policing in general, to me… property destroyed, rights ignored- ‘…move along, nothing to see here…’

  3. #3 |  Bob | 

    Well, the comments in the article are certainly disturbing.

    The worst is the retards that automatically think that the Police’s job is actually to protect them, they seem to think that most raids are aganst crack houses filled with gang bangers, and that all dogs shot are their trained attack animals. Apparently, these dim wits didn’t even read the article.

    Tragically, though… these are the fuckers that will the call the cops if your wiener dog gets out of the yard. Then stand there with their thumb up their butt when the cops come by and kill it.

    Can we just end this charade? Have the police put out an official statement that their job is not to protect us, but to arrest us for whatever infraction they see fit? Oh… and paint “To harass and arrest” on police cars.

  4. #4 |  Marty | 

    ‘to harass and arrest’ is good, but I like ‘to serve and collect’ also!

  5. #5 |  Rhayader | 

    Good piece Radley.

    I have a friend who works for the Post Office in Worcester, MA. It simply is not that difficult to deal with boisterous or even aggressive dogs.

    The law & order crowd love to position this sort of thing as a choice between the death of a dog and serious injury (or worse) for an officer. But, like Radley said, if cops really need to defend life and limb from dogs as often as they shoot the dogs, vicious dog attacks against “citizens” would be much more common. The numbers — along with witness testimony, video footage, etc etc — almost never add up.

  6. #6 |  Mike T | 

    there are reports of cops shooting dogs during raids, dogs confined in their yards, dogs running up to cops who are on the owners’ properties to ask directions, etc. So many bad decisions and so much disregard for the public- this looks like policing in general, to me… property destroyed, rights ignored- ‘…move along, nothing to see here…’

    I’d love to see the cops explain why they can shoot a dog in a residential area for merely defending its territory when the cops have no warrant to be there. I’d love to see them explain why it’s ok for them and not for the generic public to just blast someone’s dog on their private property when they stop by to ask for directions.

    I know the answer would be a steaming pile of intellectual bullshit, but it’d be hilarious to watch them do it just like watching the reaction of Arlington cops who got videotaped having to explain why they aren’t following VA and Arlington traffic laws.

  7. #7 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Police officers are vested by the government with the power of state agency. As sworn state agents authorized to carry firearms (as differentiated from letter carriers), police officers have the power to do anything legal in their judgment that enables them to perform their jobs as long as it is not proved they acted for personal gain or with malice aforethought. We know this because of Radley’s daily reportage (police review board decisions, criminal and appellate court rulings, etc.)

    From the perspective of a sworn firearm-carrying officer, it is logically irrefutable that any healthy dog may be dangerous because it can be used by a human as a diversion. While some might argue that just about anything can be justified as a diversion, including a human, it is a fact that dogs do not have person status while humans do.

    Thus, any police officer may shoot any dog (and many but not every human) as long as the act occurs in course of official duty, is not achieved for personal gain and is not done out of pure malice (i.e., the officer makes any justifiable claim for his actions). Again, since a dog MAY be used as a diversion, or a dog may begin an encounter with police non-threateningly but then change its demeanor, as it presently stands, a police officer has legal authority to act on the dog as he chooses.

    I very much wish this were not so. I am rock-solid against the shooting of any dog (and person) except one posing an imminent danger to a person. But any regular visitor of this site should know that the State will defend its agents with the most extreme prejudice possible, even against persons, so it should be completely unsurprising that dogs are a low priority for humane treatment.

    All of that being written, I think publicizing the issue is commendable and may lead to a more well-informed citizenry on the issue, but it’s unlikely in the extreme that dogs will be granted “personhood” status. The reality argues strongly against such a thing, for a dog is unlike any other household pet in its reputation for loyalty to owner and ability to inflict harm. And the bubble in dog ownership to the tune of tens of millions of dogs in American homes means this situation will persist forever, or until the dog evolves to be as generally unthreatening as a cat or rabbit.

    Police shootings of dogs, while spectacular and emotional, are vanishingly rare compared to the number of dogs dispatched at government animal shelters nationwide. Those dogs never had a chance that the ones killed in comfortable homes had. And they existed largely due to the insane proliferation of dogs in America.

    There is a big problem with animal overpopulation and police shootings of dogs is just a minor, if spectacular, segment and one that is likely here to stay despite anyone’s best efforts. In my opinion, it is better to focus on the big picture, reduce the dog population through sterilization and focus on gaining special protection for working dogs only as a means of getting the foot in the door.

  8. #8 |  Spleen | 

    You should work with John Stossel on a segment about Puppycide for 20/20.

    People are mostly numb to the human and civil liberty costs of increased police militarization (it couldn’t happen to them, but show them pictures of cute puppies playing with children and weeping dog owners recalling their violent deaths, and you will trigger their outrage.

    For some reason people feel a lot more affinity towards pets than other people. This would be the perfect way to raise awareness of police militarization and puppycide.

    (Hey, how come your spell-check doesn’t know puppycide yet?)

  9. #9 |  Whim | 

    To the police, dogs are smallarms Target Practice………

    Live, small practice targets that bleed, but that DON’T shoot back.

    Nearly perfect. It’s actually part of the police department doctrine, under the category of:

    DEHUMANIZATION.

    Seems to be working.

  10. #10 |  z | 

    Have you ever considered the difference between Police work and Postal or Meter reading? I don’t know, like a delivery man who encounters a dog can stop and give his full attention to dealing with the dog, whereas police may not have that as an option, where a distraction could put them in danger not from the dog but from the people. Just asking.

  11. #11 |  nemo | 

    You have to ask how many of these dog-killer cops have dogs, themselves? Probably quite a few. And so they ought to know what body language dogs use when they interact with people and other dogs. Automatic dog-killing is inexcusable.

    A neighbor I knew long ago had a bulldog who looked mean as hell but was a great dog, wonderful with kids once they realized his godawful ugly face belonged to something that wouldn’t harm a fly. I moved away and I heard from old friends that he’s long gone now (bulldogs don’t live as long as other breeds). Cops would probably shoot him on sight if he came bounding up to them as he used to do with everyone, as he was a very outgoing dog who’d play with anyone.

    It reminds me of something I read a long time ago in junior high: George Vest’s “Eulogy on the Dog”:

    “Gentleman of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

    If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”

    That ought to be read as part of police training of how to deal with a dog. But it probably won’t…

  12. #12 |  Rhayader | 

    @Mike T: I’d love to see the cops explain…

    Try it with me now: “Officer so-and-so was acting appropriately in a dangerous situation, and should be applauded for his commitment to our community.”

    See? Easy.

  13. #13 |  Marty | 

    #10 | z

    you’ve obviously haven’t done your research. the blog started at considering the issues of police encounters with dogs and then started picking apart the bullshit. dogs are being shot while restrained in their back yard, while running away, when cops stop to ask for directions in non-emergent situations. this is one component of the contempt displayed for citizens by the govt.

    get educated and then see if you blindly defend this behavior.

  14. #14 |  Marty | 

    ‘you obviously’ not ‘you’ve obviously’- oops

  15. #15 |  Eric Seymour | 

    There’s no reason at all for a cop to shoot a dog when he’s not involved in a high-risk action like a raid or in pursuit of a suspect, and when he can safety retreat beyond the dog’s reach.

    However, I agree with Cynical in CA that even when a dog can’t physically threaten an officer in a raid or pursuit situation, it can act as a distraction which would either allow a suspect to escape or harm the officer. Therefore it’s not the shooting of Mayor Calvo’s dogs that disturbs me, it’s that the police conducted a raid in that situation to begin with.

  16. #16 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “… it’s not the shooting of Mayor Calvo’s dogs that disturbs me, it’s that the police conducted a raid in that situation to begin with.”

    Good point Eric. And The Agitator does excellent work publicizing the proliferation of SWAT raids and the military mindset of police forces nationwide, especially as regards the drug war, which it is becoming increasingly obvious is close to the root of the evil, which is in fact Statism itself.

  17. #17 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I hate to point out the obvious, but the reason cops shoot dogs is because dogs don’t shoot back.

    Oh. And, of course, there’s that other reason that motivates much of their activity: “Because they can”.

  18. #18 |  Cynical in CA | 

    It would be far more interesting for everyone if, instead of down-arrowing, the dissenter would attempt a logical refutation.

    I’m all ears.

  19. #19 |  SJE | 

    Cynical in CA, you raise a good point, one that I do not see raised by the law enforcement community with any regularity. This is probably because it wouldnt survive the laugh test. In a SWAT raid on people known to be violent, the guard dogs are there to guard and distract. Shooting them is appropriate for officer safety. The problem is that the principles of a SWAT entry are used in general police work where there is correspondingly less need to act in such a hostile manner against people, dogs and property.

  20. #20 |  Cynical in CA | 

    True SJE, but even among the general population, the danger, however miniscule, is always there.

    All the police need is a microscopic crack in the door and they’re golden.

  21. #21 |  Marty | 

    it doesn’t have to be a swat team to initiate a dynamic entry. I’ve seen cops force themselves into plenty of homes with minimal to no justification. 911 has caused lots of headaches for people- they call for help and want EMS or fire, but get cops, too. I have seen cops initiate action because of code violations, drug violations, too many dogs, illegal immigration, improperly licensed businesses, etc. 911 is great when you NEED it, but it can lead to huge headaches. It’s like a sledgehammer and a lot of people really just need a stapler. Dialing 911 automatically opens your life to scrutiny.

  22. #22 |  A.G. Pym | 

    Do cops own dogs? Sure, but they’re _people_ you see. Not like those others.

    Whole thread brought me to mind of Rudyard Kipling, “Power of the Dog.”

    http://kipling.thefreelibrary.com/Power-of-the-Dog

  23. #23 |  Fluffy | 

    Have you ever considered the difference between Police work and Postal or Meter reading? I don’t know, like a delivery man who encounters a dog can stop and give his full attention to dealing with the dog, whereas police may not have that as an option, where a distraction could put them in danger not from the dog but from the people. Just asking.

    So the police can pull their weapons and shoot loud radios? Or wind chimes? Or TV’s? Anything that might “distract” them? Is “distraction” the new bullshit excuse of the week?

    The police should be required to justify every discharge of their weapon on the basis of imminent harm to themselves or others, or be guilty of reckless endangerment.

  24. #24 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Fluffy, the issue is not necessarily “distraction,” but diversion.

    A police officer might resort to shooting a TV or radio that was blasting so loud he couldn’t hear anything else. I could see that. Not so much with wind chimes.

    The difference is between animate and inanimate objects. A dog is animate and therefore unpredictable, and therefore can be considered a diversion.

    None of this matters anyway, because a police officer can always say that he used his judgment in discharging his weapon. As soon as he does that, the three other questions are asked:

    1. Was he acting in official capacity?

    2. Was he acting for personal gain?

    3. Was he acting solely out of malice?

    If the answers are all “no,” then the State will defend him. Your charges of reckless endangerment will not stand.

  25. #25 |  Rhayader | 

    @Cynical: Yeah, it’s as though there is no possible offense that an officer could commit short of cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder.

    Manslaughter? Reckless endangerment? Animal cruelty? Vandalism? Please. If there is even a hint of mitigation or “judgment”, he is completely off the hook.

  26. #26 |  BamBam | 

    Cynical, are you now putting forth arguments that you agree with, or are you stating how The State (C) (TM) (R) is likely to debate anything but you disagree with the morality of these debate tactics? You should clarify your statements, as it sounds like you are being an apologist for the system.

    Reality dictates that you are close to being right. However, morality dictates something almost opposite.

  27. #27 |  Rhayader | 

    As I read it, Cynical is simply pointing out that virtually any potential misconduct can be (and is) explained away based on vague “professional judgment”-type standards. It doesn’t sound at all like an endorsement of that reality.

  28. #28 |  SJE | 

    Cynical in CA: I do not agree that police puppycide is permissible unless the situations are extreme. The 4th and 5th amendments, especially, contain the words REASONABLE.

    This language is consistent with the legal and ethical understanding of proportionality. For example, it is entirely reasonable to shoot and kill and imminent threat. It is not reasonable to shoot someone for speeding. With this understanding, LEOs frequently present the need for puppycide in the context of immediate threat to officer’s life. Of course, this context is only reasonable in certain situations: feeling imminent threat when merely knocking on the door suggests a lack of common sense and/or training. As Radley has documented a lot of the imminent threat context is entirely generated by the LEOs themselves.

  29. #29 |  Rhayader | 

    @SJE: I think you might be mis-interpreting Cynical’s stance (see my comment #27).

    Of course, I may be wrong. Cynical, care to weigh in? You’re a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vest.

  30. #30 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #26 | BamBam — “Cynical, are you now putting forth arguments that you agree with, or are you stating how The State (C) (TM) (R) is likely to debate anything but you disagree with the morality of these debate tactics? You should clarify your statements, as it sounds like you are being an apologist for the system.”

    It’s refreshing to know that I am guilty of using the same kind of shorthand that I accuse others of.

    BamBam, in no way do I endorse police tactics. I am an anarchist, and as such profess non-violence. I am merely making true statements about reality.

    In a Statist world, where there are individuals selected by the State to enact and enforce its policies, certain realities such as puppycide are a given and are immutable.

    The only perfect solution is to destroy the State, which would require a sea-change in humanity from fear and superstition to trust and reason — an admittedly difficult goal. Another reasonable but imperfect alternative is to decentralize power to the smallest possible unit (in my preference, the individual, though the family, clan, tribe or municipality may be viable).

    Til then, the puppycide posts will come rolling in on schedule, morality notwithstanding.

  31. #31 |  BamBam | 

    Thank you for clarifying your statements. By not clearly stating what you support before making reality statements, it can be interpreted as what you support=reality, especially for someone that hasn’t read your comments over time and seen the consistency. I have, but then noticed an apologist tone and thought, “Is this someone else posting as Cynical, did he rise to a level of importance that required a visit from some government goons for reeducation, or did he change his position for some other reason?”

    I agree with your positions 95% of the time. I tell people I want universal health care, I want more bailouts, I want UN control of our country — I want these things and more so the crash of the system and society will be on an accelerated path. If this doesn’t wake people up, then we should just his the reset button on the planet.

  32. #32 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Thanks BamBam, and that’s a clever position, kind of a tai-chi approach, the study of yielding and “sticking” to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.

    Since there’s no way to defeat the State head-on, perhaps accelerating it is its only weakness?

  33. #33 |  Joel | 

    Great article, Radley. Linked here:

    http://theultimateanswertokings.blogspot.com/2009/07/cops-and-dogs.html

Leave a Reply