City Desk

Dead Dog Debate

Spend a few months in this career, and you quickly learn an enduring truth about the American public: it cares way more about animals than people. Quadruple murder, who gives a shit? Bodies on the sidewalk...meh, keep walking. But, if a dog ever dies–with even the slightest hint of foul play–people go ballistic. Debates ensue. Accusations are hurled. Judgments are set in stone.

On that note, listserv e-mails have been pouring into my mailbox nonstop about the dog killed by an MPD officer on Christmas Eve. Fox 5 News originally reported the story on Dec. 26. As Amanda Hess wrote yesterday, "An internal investigation into the incident is pending: The officer claims Scooby lunged, while the dog’s owner says Scooby was sitting still."

But, that was only the beginning.

A Police District 3 yahoo listserv writer kicked off the conversation with this post:

"The officer's behavior indicative of recent pressure from within MPD to increase enforcement of leash laws in DC. This is the second time an officer has shot a dog under questionable circumstances, plus there have been senseless arrests of individuals walking their dogs off leash. However, killing a dog in such a manner is not only cruel, but inhumane. I hope the ASPCA or the American Humane Society will conduct their own investigations as to the officer's actions, as I believe it will be more credible than any MPD internal investigation."

Soon after came this post:

"I was and continue to be outraged at the situation... ...I wonder why there have been no comments yet from [Assistant Chief of Police Diane Groomes]..... the owner of the dog (Scooby) and witnesses in the immediate area all say the same thing: the dog was not aggressive and wasn't threatening the officer..... what a shame!"

Oh no you didn't just pounce on Groomes! Ask for some of this woman's attention and you'll get a tidal wave of it. Since this e-mail, not one, not two, but seven e-mails from her have landed in my mailbox. Here's the first:

"I posted this shooting on the 2d listserv since it occurred there...I would also like to correct the statement that we are “arresting” dog owners for unleashed dogs… a citizen is subject to a fine of $50.00 which they would pay at the Police Districts…. We do not arrest for this type of infraction…. We can query 2d and 3d on the number of citizens cited for this violation (CO SOLBERG and CO MCCOY –pls forward your statistics on citations issued for unleashed dog please for 2007 so we can get this out to the public."

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  • Adams Morgan

    had the dog been on a leash, as is the law, none of this would have happened...

  • Jamie

    A useful comment. Replace "dog" with "jaywalker" or "panhandler" or "red-light runner". You think breaking a law, which in this case apparently isn't even a misdemeanor, is grounds for any sort of police response? The cops are trigger-happy.

  • Tony Lumpkin

    Jaimie,

    In all three cases, the replacements you suggest are humans that are intelligent and rational and can be reasoned with. I am sorry you cannot tell the difference.

    Unleashed and stray dogs are a menace. I (as a child) and my son have both been attacked by someone's cutie fwuffy wuffy. Amazingly, both owners protested that their "babies" never acted that way before, like we had done something to goad their unreasoning beasts into attack.

    And dog attacks are near the top of the list of child injuries. I am glad that municipalities still have the good sense to kill these animals. Banning their owners from ever owning dogs again would be a great follow up.

  • Jamie

    In this case, it is you that cannot tell the difference between an appropriate response and one that is not. The fine for a dog off leash is $50, which is half the fine for parking in rush-hour traffic. Our government has determined that this is a minor violation of the law, and consequently the fine is on the same order.

    Apart from that, your proposition is wrong. There were 755 accidents as a result of running a red light in DC in 2004, 266 of them resulting in injury or death. I look forward to comparing this to your statistics on dog bite injuries and deaths due to _unleashed dogs in public places_ (versus bites or attacks that occur on private property, a risk which is the owner's choice to take and not a violation of any law).

    I seriously doubt that the number of deaths is above one and the number of injuries is anywhere near that.

  • Jamie

    ... as for human beings being capable of being reasoned with, not really sure I understand your point. Human beings are irrational and commit violent crimes a lot more than dogs in this city. Despite generally being capable of much more serious harm, the police rarely shoot them down. I'm not saying dogs have equal rights as humans, but rather that the risk to the officer from the dog almost certainly did not equate the response. In fact, the officer almost certainly created a much greater risk by firing his weapon in a public place.

  • Tony.Lumpkin

    Jaimie,
    You are clearly casting your lot with the irrational beasts. I'll try to remember to throw you some table scraps.
    The 50 dollar fine is assessed to the owner, not the dog. If the cop had shot the owner, then you would be right. A dead dog equals property damage.
    I, and any sane, reasonable person, would also argue that dog injuries are disproprtionate to the number of dog owners, and furthermore are fully preventable by owners using leashes like they are supposed to, an activity that requires zero skill, judgment, or experience, not adversely affected by environmental conditions, unlike driving.

    I'll marvel at your lack of wits for a while, then ultimately pity your foolishness. Grow up, wise up.

  • Tony.Lumpkin

    You are clearly casting your lot with the irrational beasts. I'll try to remember to throw you some table scraps.
    The 50 dollar fine is assessed to the owner, not the dog. If the cop had shot the owner, then you would be right. A dead dog equals property damage.
    I, and any sane, reasonable person, would also argue that dog injuries are disproprtionate to the number of dog owners, and furthermore are fully preventable by owners using leashes like they are supposed to, an activity that requires zero skill, judgment, or experience, not adversely affected by environmental conditions, unlike driving.

    I'll marvel at your lack of wits for a while, then ultimately pity your foolishness. Grow up, wise up.

  • Presman

    The 50 dollar fine is assessed to the owner, not the dog. If the cop had shot the owner, then you would be right. A dead dog equals property damage.
    I, and any sane, reasonable person, would also argue that dog injuries are disproprtionate to the number of dog owners, and furthermore are fully preventable by owners using leashes like they are supposed to, an activity that requires zero skill, judgment, or experience, not adversely affected by environmental conditions, unlike driving.

    I'll marvel at your lack of wits for a while, then ultimately pity your foolishness. Grow up, wise up.

  • Observer

    Actually, the event took place an an area know by police to be a dog park. I gact, several police offciers use the park themselves to walk their canines. Not only that, it is a school yard surrounded by apartment buildings. More than that, some police do not know the difference between a dog bounding up to them or one getting ready to attack. Moreover, police have rules to follow with respect to the use of force. In the case, the offcier should have conisdered using: his knee, his baton, pepper spray, tazer and then and only then, his gun. It is not dogs I am concerend about with htis offcier, but humans and him. It sounds very much to me that this unfortunate situation could have been avoided with some fundamental training. It would be interesting to know exactly what kind of training police get in this regard.

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