Austin, Texas, is on the verge of becoming a lot dog friendlier — and in a way much more important than most of those measured by websites and magazines in assessing dog friendliness.
The Austin Police Department announced Tuesday that, effective July 1, there will be several changes to policies and training concerning how officers deal with dogs.
The new rules clarify that lethal force can be used only if there is “imminent danger of bodily harm” to officers or another human, not when a dog is simply acting aggressively.
It also suggests alternatives to deadly force, including firing a Taser or using pepper spray, or simply yelling at a dog.
Assistant Police Chief David Carter said dog shootings by officers will get increased scrutiny, and any officer using deadly force against a dog will have to explain why lesser force was not used. Each incident will be reviewed by the entire chain of command, as opposed to just the officer’s sergeant.
Other improvements include having dispatchers inform officers when they are going to homes that have histories of dangerous dogs being present. In those cases, city animal control officers will also be sent there.
In addition, cadets at the training academy will undergo a two-hour session on how to deal with dogs, including how to read a dog’s body language and judge whether it is dangerous. Current officers will complete training sessions online and before shifts, he said.
“It raises the stature” of dog shootings, Carter said. “We need to be as accountable for the shooting of a dog as any other force.”
The changes in Austin come in the wake of a backlash over the fatal shooting of a man’s dog in East Austin in April, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Officer Thomas Griffin was dispatched to a domestic disturbance in late April but was sent to the wrong address, where he shot a blue heeler named Cisco after the dog, according to his account, charged at him. Cisco’s owner, Michael Paxton, has denied that the dog was being aggressive.
Carter said the investigation into the case found no policy violations and Griffin received no discipline.
Since then, though, the department has been looking at the policies of other law enforcement agencies around the country to determine the best practices when it comes to dog encounters, Carter said.
“Quite frankly, we learned a lot from this process,” he said. “We learned a lot from the community, who had great concern about it.”
Paxton, meanwhile, has filed a complaint against Griffin with the police monitor’s office and has retained a lawyer.
“It’s sad that my dog had to die for this to happen,” he said.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggresive, animal control, animals, austin, behavior, cisco, dangerous, deadly force, department, dog friendly, dog killings, dogs, firearms, force, killings, law enforcement, lethal force, pets, police, policies, practices, review, shooting, texas, training
In addition to taking a closer look at the incident, in which a blue heeler named Cisco was shot by an officer who had responded to wrong address, the department says it is re-examining its policies.
“This incident has drawn a lot of attention,” Assistant Police Chief David Carter told the Austin American-Statesman.
“We’ve received a lot of calls, a lot of emails from people who are very concerned. And we are, too,” he said.
Cisco, owned by Michael Paxton, was shot by officer Thomas Griffin, who was responding to a call about a domestic disturbance. Griffin arrived at the wrong address by mistake and said he shot the dog after it charged him.
Paxton denies that Cisco behaved aggressively, but reports indicate that at least two complaints had previously been filed with animal control about the dog — one by a woman who claimed she’d been bitten when she tried to pet him in a parking lot.
While originally discounting Paxton’s version of events and saying the officer acted properly, police officials showed a more conciliatory tone Wednesday.
“The bottom line is, we have a citizen who was going about his business, who was not involved in criminal or suspicious activity,” Carter said. “And he loses his dog. … That’s a big deal, and we recognize that.”
Carter said the official review includes the 911 call and how dispatchers responded to it, the officer’s tactics and what happened afterward. Carter said the department is also examining its policies and training for animal encounters.
The review will also look at whether the recent shooting death of an Austin officer might have resulted in “hypervigilance” on Griffin’s part when he encountered the dog, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
The shooting garnered national attention. A Facebook page called “Justice for Cisco” has more than 71,000 supporters that have left messages of support and, often, outrage.
Acevedo offered condolences to Cisco’s owner during an interview on the “Dudley and Bob Morning Show” on KLBJ FM Radio.
“My heart goes out to him. I think if you ask everybody in the department, believe it or not, we’re animal lovers, just like everybody else,” Acevedo said
Posted by jwoestendiek April 19th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggressive, animals, apology. animal control, art acevedo, austin, behavior, bites, biting, bitten, blue heeler, cisco, dog, dogs, killed, michael paxton, officer, pets, police, police chief, shot, texas, thomas griffin
The officer, he says, pointed a gun at him and told him to put his hands in the air. That was about the time Cisco ran over and started barking at the officer, KXAN reports.
Paxton says he assured the officer that his dog would not hurt him, but when Cisco approached the officer fired, killing the dog with one shot.
The entire incident took place Saturday afternoon on Paxton’s property in Austin.
While there are reports that the officer, answering a domestic disturbance call, responded to the wrong house, Austin police would neither confirm nor deny that over the weekend, saying only that they were reviewing the incident.
Paxton and friends, meanwhile, have set up a Justice For Cisco Facebook page that has more than 14,000 likes.
APD spokesman Anthony Hipolito said an investigation is continuing, and told the Austin American-Statesman, “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Paxton insists the officer had no reason to question him or shoot his dog.
“He had a Taser. He had pepper spray. I don’t understand why, in broad daylight, he pulled a gun on me. I wasn’t running. I wasn’t hiding,” Paxton told ABCNews.com today. “I was just saying, ‘I live here.’ I was panicking. I was afraid for my life.”
Paxton said the officer said he was responding to report of a man choking a woman. Paxton does not have a girlfriend and believes the report came from his neighbor’s house.
Paxton said the officer did not apologize; nor did a sergeant who arrived and told Paxton the officer was within his rights to shoot the dog. Paxton said he has not heard from the police since the incident.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, austin, australian cattle dog, blue heeler, cisco, cop shoots dog, dogs, domestic disturbance, facebook, frisbee, justice for cisco, killed, law enforcement, michael paxton, mistake, officer, pets, playing, police, property, shooting, shot, texas, wrong address, wrong house, yard
It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.
Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.
The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.
And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.
As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.
The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.
Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.
Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.
Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.
It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.
But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.
Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.
Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.
He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.
Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.
No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.”
It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.
“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.
On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.
Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.
(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek July 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: area, arizona, canyons, cisco, cliffs, colorado river, construction, dail hoskins, dam, danger, dangerous, deaths, dogs, environment, environmental movement, fall, glen canyon, grate, hike, hiking, hiking with dogs, lake powell, leash, leashed, national park service, national recreation area, overlook, page, plunge, rail, sadie, safety, scenic, scenic overlook, unleashed, wall