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Animal control officer who struck river rescue dog won’t be prosecuted

An animal control officer who struck a dog with his baton, leading to a cracked skull and the loss of an eye, did not use excessive force, authorities in Oregon have concluded.

The officer, Hoyt Stepp, was defending himself against two dogs when he struck Dojie, a river rescue dog who was running loose when the Washington County animal control officer encountered her.

After an investigation by Hillsboro police, the district attorney’s office said there was not enough evidence to pursue animal cruelty charges against the officer.

Protesters gathered outside a news conference yesterday, where the decision not to prosecute the officer was explained, KOIN reported.

“I am convinced that the responding officer followed a reasonable course of action,” said Deborah Wood of Washington County Animal Control.

Animal Services Field Supervisor Randall Covey said the officer followed his training: “…He created a barrier between himself and the dogs, backing up, yelling at the dogs to go home. That did not deter the dogs. Officer Stepp got to the point the dogs were right on him in full, aggressive attack, and at that point Officer Stepp struck Dojie one time to avoid being bitten.”

dojieafter“We are sincerely sorry for the injuries to Dojie but we ask a fair amount of responsibility to lie with Mr. Starr because he did not have his fence locked and his dogs licensed,” Covey said.

Marlin Starr, Dojie’s owner, reported the incident to police after witnesses told him the officer struck his dog, who had escaped from his yard.

While authorities say the dog was struck once, Starr questions how one blow could cause a cracked skull, injured shoulder and complications that led to the loss of one of Dojie’s eyes.

“I am outraged for Dojie and I am outraged for every animal in Washington County. No animal is safe from Animal Control at this point,” Starr said.

Dojie is an experienced river rescue dog trained to help people who fall out of rafts, according to KATU.

She will no longer be able to do that job, Starr said.

Starr said witnesses told him his dog ran into his backyard, followed by an animal control officer, who pulled out a collapsible baton known as a bite stick, and hit Dojie.

The police investigation concluded that the case “did not contain the necessary elements of the crime of animal abuse.”


Comment from Miss Jan
Time March 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

Washington County is in Oregon – it is one of three densely populated counties surrounding Portland, Oregon which is in Multnomah County. Very confusing because it is actually so close to Washington State. BTW Oregon law enforcement is infamous for inappropriate use of force against mentally ill, homeless, elderly and compromised humans as well as against animals of all kinds. I live in Oregon and have for two decades and work in the legal field. What I have seen here in Oregon the last two decades is shocking and even horrifying – the extent of brutality and corruption of law enforcement here is as bad as in major US cities.

Comment from Teresa Roberts
Time March 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

This is unacceptable. Deborah Wood is “sure” due to a “lack of evidence” despite the fact that this is the officer’s 3rd incident?!? Next it will be okay for officers to come to your home, beat your family members, and leave them to suffer.

Comment from John Woestendiek
Time March 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for the correction Miss Jan. Fixed it.

Comment from vida
Time March 28, 2014 at 5:33 pm

I wonder how others accused of misdoing would fare if allowed to investigate themselves? I’m pretty sure the jails would be empty. We need civilian oversight of all aspects of law enforcement/ aco etc. Otherwise they have a literal license to kill and no laws apply.

Comment from KateH
Time March 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

“Sure, sure. We’ll investigate our actions. It won’t be the same kind of investigation we do on any other kind of incident or crime committed by the public, of course. But don’t worry about any bias. Just because you could probably search for months and months and months and never find a police department or Animal Control in the country that has ever declared itself at fault for anything doesn’t mean a thing. It just shows that they are never wrong. Of course, if a member of the general public committed the same actions, well, that would be a completely different story. Then we’d probably prosecute them, although really, it’s just an animal, right? Why are you making such a big deal about this anyway?”

Statement made by (hypothetical) public relations officer/police chief/shelter director of any entity that harms an animal.