Archive for March, 2012
NC Cops Shoot Dog then Gas Him to Death, “Counseled” Not to Gas Pets in Future
January 8, 2012
In Thomasville NC, police officers are charged with handling animal control duties on weekends. Last year on Thanksgiving weekend, Thomasville police officer Lee Patton and Cpl. Jeff McCrary responded to a call about an aggressive dog at large. Officer Patton reportedly shot the dog in the face and shoulder after the dog “charged” him. The wounded dog ran away but was later located on a nearby street. Several residents gathered at the scene of the shooting. In order to protect these residents, the officers loaded up the wounded dog, drove him to the Davidson Co Animal Shelter – operated by the Davidson Co sheriff’s office – stuffed him in the gas chamber and flipped the switch.
Several questions arise:
Was lethal force the only option available to the officers when the loose dog “charged”? Could a catch pole, tranquilizer or non-lethal weapon have been utilized instead?
After the wounded dog ran away and was found nearby, was he still a threat to the residents who had gathered at the scene of the shooting? Would that threat have been eliminated simply by removing the dog from the scene and bringing him to a vet clinic or shelter for care?
Did the officers scan the dog for a microchip, examine him for ID tags and tattoos, check lost dog reports, post the dog online or make any effort whatsoever to locate the dog’s owner before gassing him?
Did the officers complete the appropriate records in conjunction with the dog’s killing? Did they verify death using a method prescribed by state law after the gassing cycle was complete? Did they clean the gas chamber and dispose of the dog’s carcass in accordance with state law?
NC state law dictates that only a “certified euthanasia technician” may kill pets at a shelter and prohibits the gassing of pets who are “near death”. Neither officer in this case is a certified euthanasia technician. It is unknown if the dog was near death at the time of gassing but having been shot in the face and been rendered unable to flee more than a block away, it’s certainly a relevant question to my mind.
Shelley Swaim, a state animal welfare technician and Lee Hunter, a veterinarian and the director of the N.C. Veterinary Division’s animal welfare division, investigated the killing. [Note to readers: Sit down. Hold on to something solid. Remember to breathe.]
[T]he officers didn’t technically violate the code because they are not shelter employees and are not covered by it, Hunter said.
As of a December 27, 2011 letter written by Thomasville Police Chief Jeff Insley, officers are now prohibited from using the gas chamber at the pound. And:
[T]he two officers who euthanized the dog were counseled about using the shelter’s equipment, including its gas chamber.
So there ya go. Honestly, the determination that NC state law doesn’t apply to the actions of these officers at the pound because they are not employed by the pound makes the Chewbacca Defense seem well-reasoned and logical. I fear this finding could be interpreted as an open call to wannabe pet killers to stroll on into any NC pet gassing facility and fulfill their heart’s desire since they too can likely avoid prosecution by claiming they don’t work for the pound. Assuming they can face the “counseling”, of course.
By Dan Sullivan, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, March 2, 2012
ST. PETERSBURG — Esther Flesner saw white fur streak past her seconds before she heard the gunshots and saw her daughter’s dog bleeding on the sidewalk.
Phero, the dog many in the Crescent Lake neighborhood knew and loved, was dead.
The shooting occurred when St. Petersburg police responded to an apartment house Thursday afternoon at 421 10th Ave. N after multiple 911 callers reported people yelling, officials said. At least one caller said someone had a knife. Then police heard there was a stabbing.
When officers arrived, they drew their guns, then saw what was described as a pit bull terrier charging them from the back of the house, officials said. Officer Jeremy Hayes fired three times from about 10 feet away.
“He (the dog) just barely got out and I heard BOOM BOOM on the curb,” said Flesner, 87, who owns the four-unit house.
Phero died on the sidewalk.
Police found that a man and a woman had been drinking and arguing, but no one was injured, officials said.
Debra Vachon, 58, Flesner’s daughter, has cared for the dog since her son adopted it four years ago. Vachon, who lives in one of the apartments, was at work at the time of the shooting but came home afterward.
Vachon sat weeping in the back of a sport utility vehicle hours after the shooting as she caressed a yellow sheet that shrouded her dog’s lifeless body.
“He’s not a pit bull, that’s the thing,” Vachon said. “He doesn’t look like a regular dog because they cropped his ears too short.”
Vachon said her neighbors, David Florian and Kelli Applegate, were making the racket that drew police.
She said she allowed them access to the dog, but they did not have permission to let him out.
“They’re just drunk and they’re disorderly,” Vachon said.
Florian had hovered over Phero’s body and cried moments after the shooting.
“That dog would protect your firstborn,” he said hours later as he sat inside a screened-in porch drinking a can of beer with seven empties stacked nearby. “Everybody’s mad at me. If it wasn’t for me hollerin’ the cops wouldn’t have come. They wouldn’t have shot the g- – d- – – dog.”
Hayes will remain on duty while the department investigates, said police spokesman Mike Puetz. Vachon said she didn’t blame the officer.
Phero’s death is the latest in a string of dog shootings involving St. Petersburg police. In 2011, officers were involved in at least seven fatal dog shootings, prompting police Chief Chuck Harmon to change a number of policies for dealing with dogs.
Times staff writer Jamal Thalji and photographer Kathleen Flynn contributed to this report. Reach Dan Sullivan at (727) 893-8321.