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Tag: police

Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

$1.26 million awarded to family of dog shot and killed by police officer in Maryland

vern

A jury has awarded $1.26 million to a Maryland family whose dog was shot and killed by police in 2014 — the largest award ever in the U.S. for such a case, according to the law firm that represented the family.

According to a press release from the Hansel Law firm in Baltimore, the verdict came after a three-day trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

“The duty to serve and protect extends to our animal family members as well,” said Cary J. Hansel, the attorney for Michael Reeves of Glen Burnie.

Reeves’ four-year-old retriever, Vern, was shot by an officer responding to a burglary call in Reeves’ neighborhood.

Anne Arundel County police officer Officer Rodney Price claimed he was attacked by Vern, but forensic evidence presented at the trial led the jury to conclude otherwise.

vern2Vern was a Chesapeake Bay retriever. The breed is the state dog of Maryland.

The officer encountered the dog in the family’s front yard, and the officer said the dog barked and ran toward him.

During the trial, the officer admitted that the dog did not bite or injure him before he fired his weapon. The officer also said no other steps were taken to deal with the dog before the dog was shot two times, the Capital Gazette reported.

A necropsy performed at the request of Anne Arundel County police showed that one bullet entered the dog’s sternum, and another bullet entered the dog’s side, at a time when the dog’s body was perpendicular to the gun.

Attorney Hansel said that evidence contradicted Price’s testimony regarding how the shooting occurred.

An internal investigation by the police department earlier determined the dog had behaved aggressively. Price remains with the police department.

The jury found that Price was not attacked by the dog, that the shooting violated Reeves’ constitutional rights, and that it was committed with gross negligence.

Reeves got Vern in 2009 and took a year off work to train him. He declined to comment after the verdict.

The $1.26 million verdict includes $500,000 in monetary damages and $760,000 in damages for the anguish caused by the shooting.

The firm says the award was the largest ever in a case of a dog shot and killed by a police officer.

The Department of Justice estimates that about 10,000 dogs are shot by law enforcement officers every year in the United States.

The curious case of the chewed up chaise

dogchew

Law enforcement authorities in Norfolk (the one in the UK) have a whodunit on their hands.

Well, more like a whichdogdidit.

Three police dogs who reside with the same trainer are under investigation to determine which one of them, or which combination of them, shredded an outdoor lounger.

“That used to be a sun bed,” their handler tweeted in a photo post of the crime scene.

In it, all three dogs are sitting obediently alongside the lounger looking innocent or guilty, depending on one’s point of view.

And humans, as usual, are only too willing to pass judgment based on that photo alone. Internet voting has “all three” leading the way, with 44 percent of the vote.

The Eastern Daily Press is tallying the votes.

Among those who don’t suspect a three-way conspiracy, the cocker spaniel is is getting the most guilty votes. And some are saying all the evidence is circumstantial and suspicions shouldn’t be cast on the dogs just because they were there and the ground around them strewn with foam bits.

It could have been a visiting dog, or intruding squirrels, some suggest.

“Being police dogs, I think they rumbled an attack by rogue squirrels and are now standing guard to make sure the miscreants do not return,” one dog-faithful reader tweeted.

There has been no mention of conducting DNA testing on the chewed up foam, and the dogs — named Shuck, Murphy and Gizmo — remain free on their own recognizance.

(Photo: Twitter)

Bomb detecting dog in training shot and killed at New Zealand airport

grizz

A dog being trained to detect bombs at New Zealand’s Auckland Airport was shot by police — under orders from the airport — after he ran off from his handlers and caused flights to be delayed.

Airport officials said handlers, security staff and police officers spent three hours trying to capture the dog.

But, after 16 flights had to be delayed, they gave police the go ahead to shoot the 10-month-old border collie and German shorthaired pointer mix. They insisted it was a last resort.

The shooting was condemned by animal rights activists and others.

The dog, named Grizz, was training to be an Aviation Security explosion detector and was six months away from graduation, CNN reported.

After handlers tried unsuccessfully to recapture him, and to coax him off the runway, airport staff told police to shoot him.

Then they got on Twitter and reported he had been recaptured.

Not until an hour later did they reveal the dog had been killed.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Grizz was not on the tarmac but on the outer perimeter of the airfield when he was shot.

SAFE for Animals Ambassador Hans Kriek condemned the killing, asking why the animal wasn’t tranquilized, but a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said he “didn’t believe” that had been an option.

Grizz escaped from his handler at around 4.30 a.m. Friday (local time) and ran out onto the tarmac at Auckland Airport, according to the CAA spokesman.

“He was on an initial airport environment socialization program as part of his training … The airport Emergency Operations Center was activated and a full search was commenced,” he said in a statement.

But the spokesman said it was too dark and the area too large to quickly find and contain the puppy.

“We tried everything, food, toys, other dogs, but nothing would work … In these difficult circumstances the Airport’s Emergency Operations Center team decided to have the dog destroyed,” he said

Animal activist Kriek said other alternatives should have been explored.

“Ultimately they have to call the police in to shoot the dog, and the police have access to tranquilizer guns, and there’s also a zoo nearby that would have one as well. So we don’t understand why they didn’t do that,” he said.

An airport spokesman said the question of a tranquilizer gun, and the entire incident, would be reviewed.

“That’s how we do it in the country”

chickenA woman who duct-taped a dead chicken to a dog’s neck to teach it not to kill chickens defended the practice by saying that’s how they’ve always done it “in the country.”

The unidentified 74-year-old woman was cited for animal cruelty after a neighbor reported her to authorities and posted images of the dog on Facebook.

The woman is from Phenix City, Alabama, but was house sitting for a daughter in Columbus, Georgia, when the incident occurred.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said police went to the home Monday after a complaint from a citizen.

The mayor described what happened this way: “The dog kills the chicken … So she said that she duct-taped the dead chicken to the dog to, quote, ‘Teach it a lesson not to kill her chickens.'”

The woman told police that’s what people do in the country to train dogs not to kill chickens, the mayor told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Apparently, the woman had brought the live chicken with her from Alabama.

It wasn’t immediately confirmed if the dog, described as a pit bull, belonged to her or her daughter.

The incident set off a lengthy Facebook debate after Columbus resident Hannah Gillespie posted pictures of the dog:

Gillespie said in the post that the dead chicken remained taped to the dog’s neck for at least nine hours.

The ongoing Facebook debate took a dramatic turn when a someone claiming to be the woman in question posted, in a message to all the critics, that she had taken the dog to be euthanized.

Gillespie later commented on Facebook that the dog was still alive, and remained in the woman’s custody.

From “throwaway” dog to police canine

kayos

The wife of a Philadelphia police officer is proving that police dogs don’t have to be expensive European imports.

Carol Skaziak, after seeing too many dogs languishing in shelters, started an organization called Throw Away Dogs.

Established two years ago and based outside Philadelphia, the program rescues neglected shelter dogs and works to rehabilitate and train them for police work like narcotics detection and patrolling.

Since beginning her work, nine out of 12 dogs she has rescued have been placed with police departments across the country.

“I pour my heart and soul into it and all I ask for these departments is to just give my dogs a chance,” she told NBC News.

Unlike most police dogs, who commonly are expensive purebreds purchased from Europe, these home-grown mutts are donated to departments in need.

billtarsandkayos“This is a huge amount of money that we are saving,” she said. “It will save (a police department) anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000, $10,000.”

Assisting her in the effort are K-9 handlers from area police departments.

The program puts the dogs through a three-month training period, and while not all will earn spots on police forces, Skaziak says all dogs that go through the program find a home — something they didn’t have before.

“I will follow through with every dog from start to finish. Not all dogs will make it through K-9 school and I am OK with that outcome. I will then find a perfect loving family for that dog that will love and treat them like part of their family. It’s just a different kind of badge they will be wearing,” she notes on the organization’s website.

While she doesn’t believe every dog can be trained to be a police dog, there are many in shelters who have the high play drive it takes for the job.

After a graduation ceremony this year, two “throwaway” dogs were placed with the Roanoke Police Department, and a third with the police department in Roanoke, Va.

Skaziak, who is married to a Philadelphia police traffic officer, came up with the idea for Throw Away Dogs in 2013, while doing public relations work for a shelter in Philadelphia.

“I was upset about it, because people were throwing these dogs away like trash,” Skaziak told the Roanoke Times.

(Photos: Officer Bill Tars and Throw Away Dog Kayos in Roanoke, by Heather Rosseau / The Roanoke Times)

To be or not to be — a pit bull

diggy3

Whether Diggy is to be or not to be a pit bull will be decided by a judge.

The dog whose smiling face went viral — and led local officials to label him a pit bull and order him to leave town — is going to get his day in court.

Since we last reported on the case, Diggy has been proclaimed an American bulldog by a local veterinarian, but Waterford Township officials apparently didn’t buy the vet’s pronouncement.

Diggy is a pit bull, they say, based on how he looks — and those are banned in the Michigan township, under its dangerous dog ordinance.

Because Diggy’s owner, Dan Tillery, was cited by local authorities for having a pit bull, the final disposition of the case will be left up to the court.

It’s all a tremendous waste of time — first and foremost because pit bull bans are ill-conceived and just don’t work. On top of that, pit bull isn’t a breed at all. On top of that, a judge is likely to be even worse at determining breed than animal control officials, police, shelters, rescues and even veterinarians are, which is pretty bad to begin with.

And on top of all those things, does either side really want to know?

If they did, you’d think they’d have conducted a DNA test by now.

diggy4Tillery, a musician, adopted the dog from Harper Woods-based Detroit Dog Rescue earlier this month and posted a photo of Diggy and himself that went viral and was shared by news outlets nationwide.

The media coverage led the Waterford Police Department to drop by a few days later, take a look at Diggy, proclaim him a pit bull, and tell his owner that he had three days to get the dog out of town.

The dog had been listed as an American bulldog when he was in Detroit’s city animal shelter. He was pulled from there by Detroit Dog Rescue, which, in at least one Facebook post, labeled him an American bulldog-pit bull mix. On the official adoption papers, though, Detroit Dog Rescue listed him as American bulldog.

After the police department’s ultimatum, Tillery had the dog assessed by a local veterinarian who judged him to be American bulldog — though he apparently did so without conducting a DNA test.

That wasn’t good enough for local authorities, who, though they relaxed that three days to get out of town part, are still insisting Diggy is a pit bull and must leave.

Tillery met Monday with Waterford Township officials, and posted on his Facebook page that the prosecutor was sticking to the decision to have Diggy removed from the community.

A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 11, at 2 p.m. in Waterford’s 51st District Court.

“My lawyer and I are going to do everything possible to make sure Diggy stays in his home with us, his family,” Tillery said in the post. “Thanks for all of your support, guys. I’m not a quitter.”

diggyWaterford Township Prosecutor Margaret Scott said that the township will now simply wait to allow the court to determine whether Diggy falls within the ban.

“We’re not going in and removing the dog, we’re not destroying the dog — it is a pending violation,” she told the Oakland Press.

Tillery and his dog have seen an outpouring of support from dog lovers and those opposed to Waterford’s breed-specific legislation. More than 50 supporters showed up at a Waterford Board of Trustees meeting to ask officials to remove the dangerous dog ordinance from its books.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition asking the town to lift the ban.

Strangely, amid all the debate and national news coverage, DNA testing hasn’t been mentioned. If Tillery has pursued it, he’s staying quiet about it.

While some of the companies offering DNA tests — via blood samples or cheek swabs — skip around the pit bull question, a few of the tests do identify the breeds commonly associated with pit bulls.

certOne even offers a “pit bull exemption certificate” in cases where a dog is determined to be made up of 87 percent or more of non-pit bull breeds.

That may or not impress Waterford officials, or the judge, as such tests aren’t conclusive.

It’s still a possibility — that one side, or the other, or the judge, could pursue having the test done.

It would at least add some factual material to all the guesswork going on, at least a little foundation for the strident and unending Internet debate that is mostly — much like pit bull bans themselves — sound and fury, signifying nothing.

(Photos of Diggy by Dan Tillery)