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Tag: shot

$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.

Veteran who videotaped killing of her support dog found dead in suspected suicide

rollins2The North Carolina veteran who videotaped herself and her boyfriend killing her emotional support dog has been found dead of suspected suicide.

Fayetteville Police Department Lt. Todd Joyce said Marinna Rollins was found dead in her apartment Sunday.

Her death is being investigated as a suicide, the Fayetteville Observer reports.

Rollins was 23.

Rollins and her 25-year-old boyfriend, Jarren Heng, were charged last month with cruelty to animals after investigators say they tied the pit bull mix to a tree and shot it multiple times with a rifle, laughing while they videotaped it.

They later posted the video on Facebook.

Rollins was scheduled to appear in court on the charges next week.

Court documents show Rollins received a medical retirement from the Army in January, and family and friends says she struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic experience while serving in South Korea.

The slain dog had been adopted by from the Cumberland County Animal Shelter by Rollins’ estranged husband. When he was deployed to South Korea, he left the dog in Rollins’ care. She changed the dog’s name from Huey to Camboui and had him certified as an emotional service animal.

Rollins and her boyfriend, Jarren Heng, 25, who is an Army special operations soldier, were charged with animal cruelty and conspiracy in April after the video surfaced on Facebook.

The dog’s body was found in a wooded area in Hartnett County.

Rollins was out on bail of $25,000. Heng remains out on bail in the same amount and has a May 16 court date.

Friends who had been unable to reach Rollins found her dead in her apartment.

Other than calling it a suspected suicide, authorities wouldn’t comment on the cause of death.

Alaska teen hunters boast of their dog kill

fairbanks

Two teen hunters in Alaska were proud of “bagging a wolf” — even though the wolf was wearing a collar and turned out to be a sled dog.

Either way, they did no wrong, at least under Alaska’s animal cruelty laws, which permit the killing of dogs on public property.

Some people around Fairbanks are saying it’s time to change those laws after what was at least the second fatal shooting of a dog this year in the same community.

Back in July, an eight-month old puppy, a lab mix named Lucy, was found with a bullet through her head after wandering away from her home in the community of Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks.

When the owner called state troopers, he was told they wouldn’t even respond.

A spokeswoman told the Fairbanks News-Miner then that no crime had taken place: “Just shooting a dog and killing it is technically not against the animal cruelty statute,” she said.

In the more recent case, a 14-month-old sled dog named Padouk was killed on public land by two brothers, age 12 and 13, who were hunting together with a .22-caliber rifle.

He was shot through the heart about 30 minutes after he had escaped his owner’s yard, and the teens took his body to their great-grandfather, a taxidermist, to be mounted as a hunting trophy.

Padouk’s co-owners said they found out what happened to their dog when they were contacted by an ATVer who told them he’d come across two teenagers who were proud of themselves for bagging a “wolf” and asked for his help transporting the carcass to their grandmother’s home.

The ATVer refused to give the boys a ride, but he let them use his cellphone to call their grandmother.

“These two kids have been rabbit hunting in the area and they are continuing, people have been reporting. If you drive the road at 6 p.m., you have a good chance of meeting them,” said Helene Genet, one of Padouk’s co-owners.

“They haven’t apologized at all and they don’t have the feeling that they’ve done something wrong … and rightfully so, the law doesn’t provide for dogs not to be shot in public areas,” Genet said at a Friday meeting called to address concerns among dog owners about the shootings.

More than 50 people attended the meeting spurred by the shooting of Padouk, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported.

The two boys will face no charges because under Alaska animal cruelty laws it must be proven that a suspect was intentionally trying to cause pain and suffering.

And, as many in Alaska — and elsewhere — believe, hunters never do that.

In Alaska, hunters, as well as those who perform do-it-yourself euthanizations, are pretty much exempted from animal cruelty laws.

Padouk’s owners said they called state troopers after they got the phone number for the boys’ grandmother from the ATVer. Genet said the grandmother hung up on her three times when she requested permission to come and see if the dead “wolf” was their dog.

Padouk was co-owned by Genet, a recreational musher, and tourism kennel operator Nita Rae, of Sirius Sled Dogs.

At Friday’s meeting, participants discussed ways to stop future dog shootings, such as a rule against shooting guns on Goldstream Valley trails, or building a database of dogs killed in the valley to show leaders the extent of the problem.

Fairbanks Borough Assemblywoman Katheryn Dodge said she plans to re-introduce a borough animal cruelty law that existed until a 2013 reorganization of borough code.

Alaska Legislator David Guttenberg told the crowd they shouldn’t expect any changes in state laws.

Padouk’s owners say they doubt the boys really believed Padouk was a wolf. He only weighed 60 to 70 pounds and was wearing a blue collar.

While state troopers told the owners no charges would be filed, they did assist them in reclaiming Padouk’s body. The boys’ great grandfather, after being contacted by troopers, agreed to call off the taxidermy and let Rae and Genet have the body of their dog back.

(Photo: Fairbanks News-Miner)

Severely injured dog gets some comfort

sammyandsimon

One abused dog comforted another this week at a veterinary clinic in South Carolina, and this saintly image of their meeting is one for the scrapbook.

Sammie, on the table, is a three to four-month old puppy who has dragged behind a car, shot in the head and spray painted.

He was dropped off at a shelter by a woman who claimed he was a stray and said she had brought him there “because he wouldn’t die,” according to Rescue Dogs Rock NYC.

While that’s still a possibility, Sammie, a boxer mix, is being treated for a bullet hole in his head and two seriously injured legs, one of which he may end up losing. He underwent three hours of surgery on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, another dog at the clinic, a border collie named Simon, found his way into the room where Sammie was, and offered what — to human eyes — appears to be some comfort.

Simon also was a victim of some abuse and neglect, and is currently being treated for mange.

sammyBoth were rescued from shelters in South Carolina, and ended up at the same vet in Columbia, thanks to the efforts of Rescue Dogs Rock NYC.

You can read more about Sammie’s story on the organization’s Facebook page.

Contributions to help pay for Sammie’s continuing medical care can be made through a YouCaring page set up by Rescue Dogs Rock.

Rescue Dogs Rock is a not for profit animal rescue founded in 2015 whose mission is to raise awareness of the plight of homeless animals — both those in shelters and those who are strays.

(Photos: Rescue Dogs Rock NYC)

Owner of dog killed by police in Colorado receives landmark $262,000 settlement

chloe

In a settlement that’s being called one of the largest ever for a wrongful pet death, the owner of a dog shot and killed by police in Commerce City, Colorado, will receive $262,000,

Chloe, a 3-year-old chocolate Lab mix, was shot and killed by police in 2012 — after she’d been secured with a catch pole and shot with a stun gun.

A video camera captured Officer Robert Price firing five shots at the dog.

Chloe had been Gary Branson’s companion and therapy dog since 2008.

“I am happy that we have been vindicated,” Branson said. “She deserved justice for what happened to her. This has been a very difficult time for me and am glad that it is now settled.”

The payment was part of a settlement aimed at avoiding a federal civil court trial scheduled later this month, KDVR reported.

Branson had left the dog in the care of a relative during an out of town trip in November 2012. The relative left the dog in the garage while running errands and Chloe somehow activated the door’s sensor, making it open.

A neighbor saw the unleashed dog and called police to report an aggressive “pit bull”-type dog roaming the neighborhood.

When police arrived, Chloe was back in the garage. After getting the noose of a catch pole around her neck, and using a Taser on the dog, Officer Robert Price, deeming the dog’s behavior as threatening and aggressive, shot Chloe.

Commerce City police, after a review of the incident, said Price was acting “within policy” when he killed the dog.

He was nevertheless charged with aggravated animal cruelty, only to be later acquitted by an Adams County jury.

Attorney Jennifer Edwards with the Animal Law Center said that decision prompted the filing of a lawsuit.

“It wasn’t surprising. I think the prosecutor’s office was pretty conflicted in this,” Edwards says, “At that point my client did not feel much vindication so the only thing left is to pursue a civil remedy.”

Edwards said the settlement sets precedent for thousands of other cases.

“It speaks volumes as to the fact that this isn’t going to happen and you’re not going to not be held accountable,” she said.

For Branson, the settlement still isn’t enough to replace what he lost.

“No amount of money could replace Chloe,” he said.

Below is the video (be warned, it is disturbing) of Chloe’s death, taken by one of Branson’s neighbors.

(Photo from Justice for Chloe Facebook page)

Of Dogs and Men: Documentary examines epidemic of dog shootings by police officers

A new documentary brings attention to an epidemic that really needs some — the shooting of dogs by police officers in America.

Anyone who reads this website knows it happens far too much — take Tuesday, for example — and often without good reason.

There are no firm statistics, but consider the estimates: The Department of Justice says about 10,000 dogs are shot by police officers every year.

And the number of police officers killed by dogs? None. Ever.

The documentary “Of Dogs and Men” takes a look at those alarming numbers, and what’s behind them, featuring many of the same cases we’ve reported here:

• Cisco, who was playing Frisbee with his owner in his Austin, Texas back yard when police at the wrong address for a domestic dispute call, shot and killed him.

• Payton and Chase, who were shot by police during a raid on a Maryland home – not only was their owner innocent of any charges, he is the town’s mayor.

• General Patton, who watched as his owners were handcuffed on the side of a Tennessee highway, completely innocent of any charges, and then killed as he exited the car, wagging his tail.

• Patches, a 12 pound Jack Russell terrier, who was shot by a 250-pound police officer who claimed to be in fear for his life.

“From SWAT raids to simple calls and even visits to wrong addresses, we are seeing more and more incidents of officers using lethal force against a family pet, despite the fact that no officer has ever been killed in the line of duty by a dog,” said director Michael Ozias. “We are hoping that this film compels more jurisdictions to follow the lead of states like Texas and Colorado that have taken steps to protect our law enforcement officers and our family dogs through increased awareness, proper training and effective policy.”

Of Dogs and Men, by Ozymandias Media, Inc., will premier Nov. 1 at the Austin Film Festival.

The film is being released in association with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

“Use of deadly force is rarely justified in these types of cases,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “With better training, we are confident that we can put an end to these pointless killings,”

“Of Dogs and Men does an excellent job educating citizens on both the common facts of these heartbreaking cases and the surprising scope of the problem, while highlighting the tools citizens can employ to change outcomes for the better—from legislation requiring officer training in canine encounters to litigation under the federal civil rights act,” Wells added. “This film needed to be made and ALDF is proud to be a part of it.”

Some states are headed in the right direction.

Texas, where the problem is perhaps most severe, passed HB 593 in 2015, which requires mandatory canine encounter training for incoming Texas peace officers as well as those who seek advancement. The training helps officers who encounter dogs achieve safe and non-confrontational outcomes for both the officer and the dog.

The State of Colorado also enacted a statute that requires local law enforcement to undergo training to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening dog behaviors, and employ non-lethal means whenever possible.

Illinois has enacted similar legislation and other states are considering it as well.

You’d almost think dog lives don’t matter

No dog has ever killed a police officer in the line of duty.

And yet police officers, in the line of duty, shoot about 10,000 dogs a year in America, according to Department of Justice estimates.

One of the latest fatalities in the epidemic was Duchess, shot down Tuesday by an officer who acted quickly, if not wisely.

Within the space of about two seconds, a Florida City police officer determined the dog running out a front door he had knocked on was a threat and shot him three times.

The 40-pound pit bull mix died almost instantly as a surveillance camera recorded the incident.

Gillian Palacios said her two-year-old dog ran out of the front door when she started to open it.

The officer had knocked on the door to let the family know their car door was open.

“Before I could even do anything, the officer had his gun out and shot her three times in the head,” she told WPLG.

“She was curious. She wasn’t barking (and) she wasn’t growling,” Palacios said. “There was no reason for him to think she was aggressive in any way.”

“There were a million things he could have done other that shoot her three times in the head,” she added.

The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.

Florida City police spokesman Ken Armenteros defended the officer’s actions.

“We don’t have the luxury of hindsight,” Armenteros said. “We have to use the information that is given to us in a split second. So, the officer has to make that decision with the information that he has available.”

What about the luxury of foresight, though, we’d ask?

What about a mandatory program that trains all of a police force’s officers in canine behavior, how to interpret it, how to deal with it and how to make their split second decisions a little more wisely, a little less rashly?

All state legislatures should require such training, all police forces should get it in place. Only then will the “shoot first” mentality, and the thinking that dog lives don’t matter, begin to subside.

(Tomorrow: A look at a new documentary that explores the epidemic, “Of Dogs and Men.”)