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Tag: harris county

Report calls attention to dog shootings by Houston police


Since January of 2010, Houston police have gunned down 187 dogs, killing 121 of them.

And last year alone, law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County shot more dogs than New York City police officers shot in 2010 and 2011 combined.

All of those shooting were deemed by police to have been justified, but it’s not too hard to find families that disgree with that.

The KHOU 11 News I-Team did, and its report this week is more evidence that, across the country, requiring police to be trained in dealing with dogs could save dogs, and their families, a lot of pain.

Colorado passed a law requiring that, and it was signed by the governor this week.

The KHOU report, when it looked at the police-involved dog shootings for all of Harris County found at least 228 dogs had been shot by officers and deputies since 2010, 142 of them fatally.

“If the dog turns and comes at a citizen, or the deputy, they have all right to use lethal force,” explained Dpt. Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Records show Harris County deputies shot 38 canines in the last three-and-a-half years.

When asked if all those shootings were justified, Gilliland said: “The justification is, in that matter, and at that moment the deputy had to choose the decision to use lethal force against that animal.”

Sgt. Joseph Guerra, who works as a cruelty investigator for the Houston Humane Society, said it teaches some officers how to safety interact with threatening dogs. But the training isn’t mandated for all officers.

“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” he said. “We need to get those officers involved in some mandated training in how to defend before going to deadly force.”

The Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments started mandatory dog training for officers last fall, and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the training for officers across Texas.

Dog parks have blasted off in Houston

Yesterday, I took Ace to the largest and most amenity-laden dog park he’s ever been to — with 13 acres to romp and two cool blue lakes to swim in.

And here’s what he did: Sniffed. Sniffed some more. Peed. Pooped. Waded, zombie-like, into to the water twice, for about two seconds each time. Approached strangers to be petted. Then he found some shade and collapsed.

Millie Bush Bark Park in Harris County was by far the most impressive dog park we’d ever been to, and Ace — rather than frolicking, merely peed and sacked out. After five days pretty being limited to motel rooms, and spending limited time (his choice) outside on tiny patches of grass, I was expecting him to go nuts, make friends, splash around and have a gay old time.

Instead, it was like taking your kids to Six Flags only to find they wanted to spend the entire time in the restroom.

While Ace, probably for reasons heat related, was uninspired, Houston and its surrounding areas have been quite the opposite when it comes to dog parks.

Houston and its suburbs now boast over 20 fenced, off-leash dog parks with amenities that include swimming ponds, agility equipment, shaded (thank God) seating and trails.

Millie Bush Bark Park, located in George Bush Park and named after former President Bush’s dog, was Harris County’s first dog park, opening at the end of 2003.

Its success inspired other municipalities, including the city, to start opening dog parks as well.

The City of Houston announced the planned opening of its first dog park in 2004; today, in the city alone, there are six, with still more in the planning and fund-raising stages. Throw in the surrounding area, and the number of dog parks jumps to around 20.

Millie Bush Bark park features large and small dog areas, doggie swimming ponds, doggie water fountains, doggie showers, shade areas, benches, scattered trees, walking paths, fake fire hydrants, and a huge parking lot.

It makes Baltimore’s dog parks look like postage stamps.

You can find a complete list of the area’s dog parks at the website of the Houston Dog Park Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to help establish and support a network of off-leash dog parks in the Houston area.

I’m impressed with my former hometown’s performance when it comes to dog parks.

As I’m sure the Basset Hound below would agree, it’s pretty darn cool.

Two owners die trying to save their dogs

In Houston and Philadelphia, sad stories emerged at the end of the last week of humans who, while trying to save the lives of their dogs, lost their own.

In Philadelphia, a woman was struck and killed Friday night as she ran onto a set of railroad tracks to save her dog from an oncoming commuter train, police said.

The woman, who police described as in her 40s and from out-of-state, was standing on the platform of the Bryn Mawr station about 6 p.m. when her dog got loose and bounded onto the rails, according to Lower Merion Township police.

The woman was waiting for a train when her dog got loose. She chased the black Chihuahua onto the tracks as an eastbound SEPTAtrain pulled into the station. She was killed instantly, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The dog was recovered without injuries and taken to an animal hospital.

In the Houston arrea, Harris County sheriff’s Deputy Eddie Wotipka drowned late Thursday as he attempted to rescue one of his dogs from a canal near his home in Baytown.

The 51-year-old officer had pulled up to his home in his patrol unit and was told by neighbors his dogs were running loose near an industrial canal.

Wotipka saw his English bulldog go into the canal and plunged in after her. He resurfaced once then went under again. Wotipka’s body was recovered the next morning about 150 feet from where he entered the canal, the Houston Chronicle reported. The dog also died.

Wotipka joined the department in 1993 and was known as a lover of dogs. While in his patrol cruiser a week ago, he slammed on his brakes to avoid a stray dog in the middle of the road, then ended up bringing the dog, who he named Skidmark, home.

The police officers’ union is planning a fundraiser for the Wotipka family on July 31.

Partner remembers his police dog, Blek

Harris County Deputy Constable Ted Dahlin, whose police dog, Blek, was strangled by a burglary suspect last week, says he shared a special bond with the five-year-old shepherd and considered him both his partner and best friend.

“It’s a big commitment, not just for the handler, but for the dog as well,” Dahlin said. “They say the dog picks the man. The personality of the handler is the dog’s and vice versa.”

Blek was trained to find people and sniff out explosives. Dahlin said his precinct spent about $13,000 for the dog and the training. Dahlin spent six weeks in Indiana learning how to handle the dog, including how to give commands in Czech.

Blek, on the job for more than three years, ran into a wooded marsh in North Houston in pursuit of a burglary suspect last week. When Blek did not come back, Dahlin and other officers began searching for him, according to a report in yesterday’s  Houston Chronicle.

“My lieutenant and sergeant found him,” said Dahlin, with whom the dog lived. “My sergeant met me before I got there, held me back, and gave me a hug. I knew at that point what happened.”

Cornelious Harrell, 17, is accused of choking the dog Dec. 22 after police interrupted a burglary. He has been charged with burglary and interference with a police service animal, a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

In court Monday, prosecutors said Harrell choked Blek from behind after the dog cornered his 15-year-old brother. Prosecutors said the brothers and three other suspects were fleeing the scene of a burglary.

Burglary suspect strangled dog, deputies say

Suspects in a Houston-area home burglary have confessed to choking to death a police dog who was pursuing them, FOX 26 in Houston reported.

Harris County deputies sent K-9 teams into a wooded area Tuesday night in  search of two of the three suspects, but one of the dogs — a five year old German shepherd mix named Bleck — never came back and was later found dead.

One of the suspects who was found in the woods confessed to fatally choking the dog, Fox26 reported. A third supect was found in a car trying to escape from authorities.

Members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office say a necropsy will be performed on the dog.

Giant dogfighting ring broken up in Texas

Texas officials have begun making arrests in an investigation into what authorities describe as one of the largest dogfighting rings in the country.

Eight people were arrested and 187 dogs were seized Friday — all part of what was called a sophisticated dogfighting ring involving a network of bettors and fight organizers throughout eastern Texas.

According to the New York Times, 55 people were indicted after an undercover investigation that lasted 17 months. Officials said the network’s dogfights drew crowds of up to 100 people, who placed tens of thousands of dollars in wagers on a single fight.

“This was a large-scale, highly organized operation,” said Lisa Block, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

It was not uncommon for a gambler to put $500 to $1,000 down on the matches, which took place several times a month in secluded parts of Harris County, law enforcement officials said.

Ring members invited only people they knew to the fights, but undercover agents from the state police infiltrated the group to gather evidence and even managed to videotape some of the matches, officials said. The investigation started after troopers received a tip from someone in another state about the fights.

Most of the dogs seized were pit bull mixes.

During raids to seize the animals, state troopers also found firearms, marijuana, cocaine and stolen property, the authorities said. But the indictments charged the defendants only with engaging in dogfights, a felony that carries up to two years in prison, or misdemeanor charges of being a spectator at a dogfight, which carries up to a year in jail, the Times reported.