ASPCA: Most Instances of Police Shooting Dogs are Avoidable

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It seems that every other day we see a story about police shooting a family dog.  Not a vicious dog that has mauled a baby or is about to attack an officer, but a dog that is not doing anything but wagging its tail.

Each year, hundreds, possibly thousands, of animals are fatally shot by police.  The National Canine Research Council says nearly half of intentional shootings by police are to dogs.  While some of them may be vicious or are irreparably injured need to be put out of their misery, most of them die for no reason.  Animal rights and behavior experts say police execute these dogs because of prejudice, or even worse, simply because it is more convenient.  It is more convenient for a cop to shoot a furry family member than to think of a better solution.

It would be understandable if these dogs were actual threats, but there is not one documented case of a dog killing a police officer.  There aren’t even very many dog bites.  According to the NYPD’s 2011 Firearms discharge report, there were 28,000 calls to police about dogs or other animals.  Out of 28,000 calls, only five officers and two civilians were bitten during shooting incidents.

But there have been so many incidents of innocent dogs being murdered at the hands of police officers, who we are taught are there to serve and protect us, that police integrity is being called into question.  In Fairhope, Alabama, 10-year-old Maddie was shot on her own porch.  The police officer claimed she was running at large and tried to bite him, and even tried to jump in his patrol car, but his tale was contradicted by an eyewitness.

“The dog was not vicious at all,” a shaken Tyler Swafford said.  “It didn’t even come off its porch [when the deputy pulled up].  The deputy got out of his car and knelt down by the side of it.  There was a dog sitting at the edge of the porch, wagging its tail, and he shot it.  It looked like he did it for no reason.”

Photos show that Maddie was shot several times in the head and leg.  The devastated family said she was a gentle dog and was greatly loved by their children.


Axel was an 18-month-old yellow Lab from Charles City County, Virginia in training to be a service dog, and was shot in the face three times by Animal Control Officer Franklin Bates.

Rosie was a four-year-old Newfoundland in Des Moines, Iowa, who was hit twice with a Taser, then chased from her own yard and gunned down.  A neighbor had only called to report that she was loose and feared for the dog’s safety.  Rosie’s owners, Deirdre and Charles Wright, were unsuccessful in having the officers involved charged, and they were cleared of wrongdoing by the department.

But these trigger-happy police have not been cleared in everyone’s eyes, even if their superiors are more than willing participants in the blue code of silence.  The federal Department of Justice has recognized that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Last year they issued a 46-page police training and information guide entitled “The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters,” which was distributed by its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

The guide was developed after the ASPCA’s 2010 position paper determining that “most instances of police shooting dogs are avoidable,” and implored officers to better understand dogs and use a minimal amount of force on them.

The COPS guide educates police on dogs’ “posture, vocalizations and facial expressions” so they can assess whether or not they are even threatened.   Outlined are defensive options that do not include the use of deadly force.  Myths about dogs and biting are also debunked.  The reports of a “dog bite epidemic” were contradicted, as the numbers have actually declined.  The canine population in the US has grown steadily, but the whopping 37,000 dog bites reported in NYC in 1971 has been pared down to 3,600 in 2009.



It can be difficult to determine accurate numbers of dog shootings because many police departments do not even require any kind of formal review for the slaying of a dog, and some don’t even have to write a separate report.  But in the public’s eye, every innocent dog shooting is one too many.

“It’s not about animal rights.  And nobody is questioning an officer’s right to protect himself or the public,” said Donald Cleary, director of communications for the National Canine Research Council. “But police need to know, to really understand, is that it just doesn’t look good.”

Few would question an officer who shot a dog because they were defending his or her life.  But most dogs are not brutally aggressive, and it seems that in many cases, it is the police who are brutally aggressive.  A child wielding a knife would pose a threat, but it is unlikely that an officer would shoot them.  Perhaps if they are so worried about their safety, they should carry tranquilizer guns to manage perceived threats instead of killing family members.

34 thoughts on “ASPCA: Most Instances of Police Shooting Dogs are Avoidable”

  1. My dog was a 7 yr old sheltie. She has never bitten or growled at anyone. I have 3 kids. 6 yr old, 2 yr old n a 1 yr old. They always puleed on her n beat on her but she never did anything. She was jus a barker. A cop came in my fenced in complete ly around my whole yard n a cop shot her twice. He had no warrant either. I live in flint michigan. I wish someone could do somethin;( ……..

    • Stephanie I am so sorry your dog was harmed by an ignorant rogue cop who illegally entered your property and did the unthinkable.

      I truly hope that this article is the beginning of a movement of change. The public must form a unified front and demand that all law enforcement receive training in nonviolent methods for confronting family canine members. And most important, there should be independent outside reviews of shootings and NOT internal investigations that ALWAYS result in no punishment for guilty cops and no justice for the victims.

  2. Unjustified shootings of family pets happens too often and I for one am sick of it! How can law enforcement not understand that the public is slowly losing respect and trust in their ability to serve and protect. Our canine companions can not be replaced and their safety is important to us. Losing them to violence is painful to those who love them and everyone who loves dogs should be fighting to stop the senseless killing of dogs at the hands of police. What is really upsetting is the thought that many of the deaths were the result of an ignorant cop looking to remove an inconvenience with no concern for the animal, the family or prosecution!

  3. Oh, btw, I am not a supporter of the “cops aren’t trained appropriately” argument. Whether or not you are trained has little to do with it. If a cop is that trigger happy to terminate innocent life because they have the power to do so, they are not psychologically fit to carry a gun and serve society.

  4. Nothing makes me hate and distrust cops more than their shooting of harmless pets. Tasing is a close second.

  5. It amazes me all the negativity toward cops that is spoken on here. It easy to post hateful things and not all but some don’t like the police no matter what. I am a police officer and in my department alone I cannot count the number of dogs saved by officers who pick up strays then post on web sights to adopt them or adopt them themselves. Large number of officers are some of the biggest advocates for dogs I know. They are not out looking for accolades or recognition…..but that is rarely newsworthy only seems negative news is what posted. I am a k9 officer and owner multiple dogs. I have been bitten once at work by a “family pet” and once while walking my k9 partner we both were viciously attacked by “family pet” who got away from owner but those things not newsworthy. Believe me law enforcement are huge supporters of our k9 friends just not newsworthy. Contrary to public opinion most of us do not want to shoot a dog. Just my thoughts for whatever worth.

    • Its just a shame that some make it bad for the good ones out there. I’m not a police officer, I am a teacher. I do know of plenty of animals that have been rescued by officers. Just as in any organization there are some bad ones who REALLY need to be taken to task for their illegal deeds. In VA it is a felony to shoot a companion animal unless he is actively attacking something/someone.
      My dog was shot by Animal Control, because he couldn’t write me a ticket since during hunting season, there is no leash law where I live. I wholeheartedly believe this. Our ACO also uses lose dogs as target practice for deer season. He actually told this to someone. He also believes he is a cop. In our county he is just a county employee, not much different than me. He has no badge.

    • If you want to know why there is “negativity” toward cops maybe you should start reading about people whose lives and families’ lives including four-legged family members have been literally destroyed by rogue cops who seem to far, far outnumber the “good cops.”

      Why do you express surprise at people who are negative about or terrified of cops? If you are interested in the why and the wherefore maybe you should sit down with your favorite search engine and start reading about situations where cops kill homeless and kids and mentally ill who are threatening suicide and puppies cowering in terror under bushes (Rosie, Des Moines WA) and dogs held in children’s arms and dogs in homes where they are MISTAKENLY trying to serve a warrant (hint: most cops apparently can’t read addresses, go figure) etc etc ad nauseum. YES WE ARE SO SICK OF THIS. This is supposedly a CIVILIZED SOCIETY. But you know what? IT IS NOT A CIVILIZED SOCIETY ANYMORE it has become a police state run by thugs – thugs with badges whose bosses with badges and their bosses with incomes in the one-tenth of one-percent range delivering the legislation and orders to carry out their agendas. NO WONDER most people are terrified!!! A family calls for help with their teenage son who is threatening suicide – the responding cop kills the teen (Portland, Oregon). And thousands, literally THOUSANDS of similar stories. Cops in New Orleans after Katrina shot dogs for FUN and for target practice and even held impromptu dog fights with betting, just outside of the rescue areas – when they weren’t lining up humans of another race to murder, execution style, or shooting them in the back as they fled in fear – at least those cops were federally prosecuted.

      If YOU are indeed a career LEO believing you are a “good cop” you need to take a long, hard look at why even average, law-abiding citizens are completely terrified of cops. There really IS good reason for this fear! “Good” cops need to begin to understand that overall too many cops’ very bad behavior has created a virtual reign of terror over innocent civilians, and good cops, if any are actually left out there, need to make extremely strong efforts to put a stop to that reign of terror and go back to hunting down ACTUAL CRIMINALS instead of vulnerable humans and their four-legged family members.

      “More training” is not going to do any good – START WITH ACCOUNTABILITY and not “the department” covering up for cop murders.

    • Sir/Maam, first thank you for serving your community in an honorable way. I do think most police officers do not want to shoot the family pet. However, there are others that don’t follow the same code of ethics that you follow.

      I think a couple of things need to happen:

      1) Let’s hear about the stories that are good: maybe other police officers would be more inclined to follow suite.
      2) Police need to stop covering up or excusing rogue officers who shoot pets unnecessarily.
      3) Officers who do shoot pets needlessly need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

      If these were to happen, I think there would be a turn in these events!

    • I read all of these posts because I care what might happen to my dogs. I might have just had 5th grade D. A. R. E graduation, but a 11 year old’s opinion matters too. Some people will now not even let officers eat at a McDonald’s restaurant because they think most officers are bad people who use dogs as target practice. My D. A. R. E. officers were very kind, and you can tell that they believed in their subject as much as I hate dog cruelty. If more officers are like the D. A. R. E. officers I had, our world would be a much better, safer place for everyone.
      That said, if some officers were a better influence, we would not have this many dogs being shot and killed. I think we need make laws that protect dogs from being killed by some officers, but also use better ways to make officers feel safe when near dogs. I hope officers in some states are not killing dogs for any reason. If so those people do not deserve to wear the badge they wear and be called a protecter of the U. S. A.

  6. Last Sunday morning, my dog, not even a year old was shot 3 times by a police officer and he left him bleed to death. I was assulted by my neighbors that morning, called the police, my dog sensed I was upset by the time the policeman got to my house. My puppy nipped his pantleg,and he didnt hesitate to pull out his gun. I told him to shoot me too. I love little Sammy. He was my best friend just trying to protect me, and died for it. The policeman said he FORGOT where his taser was! Some cop! So cause of that, my dog died. The neighbor that assulted me, are the same people that were teasing my poor pup for months. People like that get away with anything, and my dog paid for it! Very upset in Schertz Texas!


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