Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal
On Sunday, a Southern California police officer fatally shot and killed a dog in the City of Hawthorne, while arresting the dog’s guardian for obstruction of justice at a crime scene.
The incident was all captured in a disturbing video that is now making its way around the Internet.
Uploaded to YouTube on June 30 (Warning: Disturbing Content), the graphic footage documents a group of police gathering in a barricade situation on 137th Street and Jefferson. A man, Leon Rosby, watches and films the SWAT team with his cell phone as he walks his leashed Rottweiler, Max.
Rosby appears to yell at the police officers from the sidewalk. Three officers eventually approach him, at which point Rosby brings his dog into the backseat of a car. Rosby briefly engages with the officers and is handcuffed and arrested shortly after.
At this point, the distressed dog begins to bark and jumps out of the vehicle through the open rear window, moving toward the officers.
The dog barks at the officers to back down from his guardian until one officer shouts at him. Another officer reaches at the dog several times in an apparent attempt to grab the leash. The dog then lunges forward, at which point the officer fires four shots, killing the two-year-old dog.
The Hawthorne Police Department released a statement that says, “Fearing that the attacking Rottweiler would imminently bite the officer(s), one officer fired his duty weapon several times, striking and killing the dog.”
According to attorney Michael Gulden, Rosby plans to sue the Hawthorne Police Department for killing his dog.
“I never meant my dog to be killed and shot like that,” Rosby told NBC Tuesday. “He wasn’t just shot. He was executed.”
The distressing incident has sparked a controversial debate over whether or not the police officer was justified in killing the dog.
While some say the officer was acting in self-defense, others say shooting the animal four times was an excessive response.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time a domestic animal has been shot to death by a police officer.
In fact, according to an ASPCA review of public records, approximately half of all firearms discharged by police officers involve shooting a dog.
What’s more, there is even an entire Facebook page devoted to sad stories from people whose dogs were killed by police.
The problem lies in the fact that officers rarely receive instruction in animal behavior, which can lead them to misinterpreting a non-threatening dog’s intentions as hostile.
“Although they may encounter truly dangerous dogs in some situations, the majority of dogs they are likely to meet are well-behaved family pets that are legitimately protecting their homes and families from intruders,” according to the ASPCA.
All too often, these officers resort to lethal force when other options are available.
The Justice Department has issued guidelines on how police should handle dogs, stating, “lethal force is a last resort and rarely necessary,” and cops should first use a tranquiler gun, chemical repellent, or baton when responding to aggressive dogs.
Groups like the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offer free training to police departments on how to quickly assess animal aggression, but sadly both organizations say very few departments actually accept the offer.