Police memo told Harrisburg officers to shoot, keep or relocate stray dogs
Despite their plea of poverty, despite maintaining they’ve sidestepped the crisis, our verdict remains.
As does the evidence: a police memo that instructed officers, when it came to stray dogs, to serve as judge, jury and executioner for any that seemed sick or violent; and transport and dump the others elsewhere — all while assuring any concerned citizens they were going to “a nice farm in the country.”
In the fall of last year, the cash-strapped capital city found itself unable to keep up with the terms of its contract with the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area, which operates the key animal shelter in the area.
About $6,300 in arrears, the city quietly waltzed out of the contract, with no announcement to the public, Amy Worden at the Philadelphia Inquirer’s dog blog, Philly Dawg, reports.
As a result of police having nowhere to take abandoned or stray dogs, Capt. Annette Books gave police supervisors the following instructions in a Dec. 5 memo:
If the animal is vicious and a danger to the public and/or officers, or if the animal is obviously sick, injured or suffering the animal may be destroyed in as safe a manner as possible. The animal will then be taken to the Agriculture Bldg. (near the loading dock area) on Cameron St. for disposal.
The memo went on to add:
If the animal is determined to be a “found” animal, the officer can ask the complainant if they want to keep the animal or if they know someone who will adopt the animal, or the officer can adopt the animal for himself/herself, or the officer can place the animal in a prisoner van and release it to an area where it will be safe for the animal.
If you choose to adopt the animal yourself or release it in a safe environment, DO NOT inform the complainant of your intentions.
Instead, the memo suggested that officers tell citizens the dog is “going to a nice farm in the country.”
Animal welfare advocates, rightfully, were enraged and called the policy both inhumane and illegal. Abandoning an animal is a crime in Pennsylvania, and here was a police official ordering that officers do exactly that, or worse, as a matter of policy.
“Police officers cannot play judge, jury and executioner in the case of a stray dog,” said Tom Hickey, a member of the governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board.
By the end of December, the city publicly declared the matter resolved, making the memo’s instructions a “moot” point, a spokesperson for the city’s mayor said.
We’d disagree with that. We’d say it’s not moot at all. And we’d suggest that the police captain who wrote the memo be driven somewhere out in the country, perhaps to a nice farm, where she would be safe.
It’s not entirely clear what, if any, definite terms have been agreed upon by the city and the humane society, but they are reportedly meeting and talking.
Worden reports that, according to animal rescuers, the shelter continues to turn away stray animals and that “police officers are telling the public they cannot help unless the dog is aggressive. In which case, according to the memo, they will be shot.”
Worden also reports that a Facebook petition drive has been started, called “Stop the Shooting of Dogs in Harrisburg.”
All that considered, Dusty Rose, the dog pictured at the top of this post, is lucky to have seen 2012.
A female pit bull, she was found outside a convenience store on New Year’s eve by a volunteer with Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance (CPAA). The volunteer called 911, and a police officer arrived to tell her the only thing he was authorized to do was shoot the dog if it was aggressive.
Wadsworth told him she’d prefer to do without his services and called fellow CPAA volunteers to help round up the dog.
Dusty’ Rose is now receiving medical care at a veterinary hospital in York, where she is recovering from surgery to fix a prolapsed uterus. Donations to her care can be sent to CPAA or made through its website.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 4th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
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