Police brutality, officer involved shootings, and unnecessary use of force: these phrases have become all too common headlines in our society. From the outrage in Ferguson, to the shooting of Walter Scott, to the most recent chaos in Baltimore, the often unnecessarily violent ways in which police officers respond to their 911 calls has fallen under immense scrutiny. While this problem has stirred up myriad of legal as well as racial debates, one victimized group has no means of voicing their concern: animals.
Last month, two police officers arrived to a domestic disturbance call at the residence of 24-year-old Ian Anderson of San Diego, California. When Anderson awoke to answer the door, his six-year-old pit bull, Burberry, followed.
While greeting the officers at the door, one officer — identified as Office Bennett — greeted the dog with a pat on the head; when Burberry rushed over to the other officer — identified as Officer Jackson — he ran from Burberry. Jackson then proceeded to shoot the dog in the head. It would later be revealed that the officers had arrived at the wrong address, and Anderson had registered Burberry as a service animal six years ago to cope with depression after the death of his father.
Anderson started a Facebook community called “Justice for Burberry” and stated publicly on his Facebook:
“As those of you who knew Burberry already know, Burberry was the absolute best dog in the entire world and has never nor would ever hurt anyone or anything. It is absolutely asinine that the Officer is able to justify killing my dog. Not only was there no reason for the Officer’s [sic] to be at my house because they came to the wrong address, but there was absolutely no reason why the Officer should have felt threatened enough to use a lethal weapon to shoot my best friend and put myself and those around me in jeopardy. I know nothing will bring Burberry back, but it only seems necessary that this Officer is reprimanded for his disorderly actions, before this trigger happy Officer takes more lives. I am thankful for the lives that Burberry touched over the last 6 years—he never failed to put a smile people’s faces. Now you can protect dad up in heaven for me. I love you past the stars Burberry, you’ll always be my angel!”
Sadly, these stories seem to keep repeating themselves. Earlier this month, Florida Sheriff’s Deputy hopped a gate to a home — marked with several dog warning signs — to investigate a burglar alarm. When the aforementioned dogs came running at the deputy, he drew his gun and shot one of them; like Anderson’s case, the call was a false alarm. The Deputy in question will not receive any discipline, because his superiors claim he performed exactly as he was trained to respond.
Many police officers carry stun guns, as well as mace, both of which could be used as effective non-lethal alternatives to shooting these dogs. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has attempted to provide legal recourse for victims, as well as officers, to help and prevent future incidents. Whatever the case, something needs to be done for these animals because they cannot help themselves.
How do you feel about these incidents? Should police officers receive better training in the handling of animals? Comment below or tweet @connerws to keep this conversation going.