Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Dog Lover Says: Justified Force

On Sunday, September 12th, police shot and killed a dog at the Adams Morgan festival in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few accounts:

Washington Post



Washington City Paper

Before we go any further, let me just ask one question. How many of you honestly think that the veteran K9 officer who killed Parrot woke up that morning and thought, "Hmm. I feel like killing a dog today," and went out looking for a dog to kill? If you're one of those people, stop reading right now and go back to your anarchist blog.

The facts that are clear:

1. The Shar Pei is 2 years old and a rescue.
2. The handler had only had knowledge of the dog for a month prior to the incident.
3. A Shar Pei attacked a smaller dog.
4. In trying to separate the dogs, the Shar Pei's handler is bitten by the Shar Pei.
5. There is a struggle to separate the two dogs.
6. A K9 unit police officer intervenes.
7. The officer incapacitates the Shar Pei by kneeling on it.
8. The officer threw the Shar Pei down a flight of stairs and shot it.

In all reports, Aaron Block, the handler of the Shar Pei, made some pretty bad decisions with regard to Parrot. They are:

Taking a rescue dog with an unknown history to a large gathering of people which will include small children, other dogs, and food.

You don't do that. You don't take a dog with an unknown history to a large gathering of people which will include children, other dogs, and food until you first know two things: You have complete control over the dog at all times, and that you have demonstrated beyond a doubt in numerous test situations in which you are prepared for the dog to act crazy that the dog is not likely to do anything nutty. And even THEN, things happen.

Taking a large dog into a large group of people which will include children, other dogs, and food on a harness.

In his statement to the DCist in which Aaron Block claims he is "a spokesperson for the owner of the dog," he claims the dog was on a harness. I find this hard to believe because in pictures of the police officer subduing the dog, it doesn't look like he even has a leash on, much less a harness. But I digress. A harness gives a dog MORE leverage to yank and pull you around with, it does NOT give you control over the dog unless it is a harness specifically designed to stop pulling, and I can tell you those aren't very effective either. If you want control over a large, unruly dog, you're setting yourself up for failure using a harness. There's a reason they put sled dogs and weight pulling competitors into a harness: So they can pull BETTER. Taking a dog with an unknown history into a potentially volatile situation, he should have been using a Gentle Leader. If you have control over the dog's head, you have control over the dog.

At any point during this incident, letting go of the leash.

Originally I thought this dog wasn't on a leash, and I was highly incensed. In none of the news reports is there mention of a leash, and in the pictures, as before stated, the dog does not appear to have a leash on. Aaron claims the dog was on a leash. Why in the name of anything you hold dear would you have let go of it? The officer would not have been able to throw the dog anywhere if he had the leash. At least, not without dragging him with the dog.

Trying to hold the dog's mouth open.

This whole bit just sounds shady as hell to me. Aaron claims, when speaking to the Washington Post, that Parrot did not bite him. He "cut his hand in the dog's mouth."
That's a really weird way of saying the dog bit you, otherwise why would your hand be in the dog's mouth at all? If he was trying to cover for Parrot, why didn't he just claim the other dog bit him? I'm guessing because at this point the other dog was clear, and Parrot was the only dog involved. Aaron clarifies in his e-mail to the DCist, saying that "he placed his hands in Parrot's mouth and held it open, which he has done when Parrot gets overexcited when romping in the apartment. As it had in the past, this calmed Parrot down."

The hinge that holds a dog's lower jaw to the upper is actually very fragile. And doing what Aaron claims he was doing is just the way to break it. Besides that, drawing on years of dog handling experience, I can tell you, holding a dog's mouth open is no way to calm it down. I don't know of any dog who would become calm while having it's mouth held open. Usually, they struggle. A lot. Even my sainted Labrador, a dog with a CDX title, did not particularly enjoy someone holding his mouth open. He put up with it. Grudgingly. And only because he trusted me A LOT.

Who puts their hand in the mouth of a dog while attempting to break up a dog fight, anyway? Who does that? Putting your hand in the mouth of a dog that is in ANY way aggressively excited is just BEGGING to be bitten! I don't even put my hands near the business end of a hamster fight if I can help it. I mean c'mon. At some point, self-preservation kicks in, even in those of us who don't have much of a sense of self-preservation. Assuming Aaron has absolutely no sense of self-preservation, and did indeed stick in his hands in Parrot's mouth in whatever misguided attempt to calm him, what the hell do you expect to happen? "I cut my hand in the dog's mouth." BS. Just call it what it is. The dog bit you. It was your fault for sticking your hand in there, yeah, but the dog still bit you. That's lamest cover-up for it I ever heard.

At this point, Aaron's story seriously conflicts with the officer's story, as well as that of on-lookers. One witness says that Aaron was on the ground, "struggling, really struggling" with Parrot. One says that Aaron's hand was pretty seriously injured, making him unable to control or subdue Parrot. The officer, who let us remember, is a K9 officer with dog experience, steps in. According to the officer, Parrot bit him, and was still attempting to bite him, when he threw the dog down the stairs. And when the dog got up and tried to come back up the stairs, he shot the dog.

I've been in that situation. Have you? The situation where a very large dog REALLY wants to hurt you. I never assume anything is the dog's fault, I know better. But in a case where a very large dog really wants to hurt you, for whatever reason, and you know what you're doing, you can get a tentative control over the dog, by doing just what the officer did. Or something like it. But then what? You can't sit there forever, and as soon as you let go you know where that dog is going: Right back at you. There's a moment when that realization comes over you that you wonder who really has who, especially if the dog is struggling hard enough that you're losing whatever grip you had on it.

In my situation, it was a dog I knew, I was by myself, I did something in the dog's eyes that was wrong and could have been avoided (I grabbed his dish to fill it up instead of bringing the food to the dish, my fault) and luckily for me while we both sat there and wondered who had who, we both calmed down, the dog's brain came off of auto-pilot, I saw and acknowledged the change in his posture and I trusted him enough to let go. If my trust had been misplaced, I was the only person who stood to be hurt by it, I was alone.

This officer was in a crowd of people, with a dog he did not know, that was trying to bite him. When he got to the realization that this dog which was acting aggressively and had already bitten one dog and at least one person might get loose in a crowd of people that included small children, he made the decision to throw the dog down a stairwell. This accomplished three things. The officer tried to non-fatally injure the dog enough to back the dog down. It got the dog far enough away from the officer in one movement that the dog could not bite him immediately. It gave the officer enough distance to judge if the dog was going to come back aggressively and the distance to take a shot if need be, and the dog was down a stairwell, so he wouldn't be shooting into a crowd of people. That's some damn good fast thinking. 90% of us wouldn't have been able to do that. He neutralized a threat without harming innocent bystanders. Just what he was trained to do. Good job officer.

Was the shooting justified? I think it was.

Did the dog deserve to die? No, of course not. I think the only reason he was trying to bite the officer is because he was scared at that point. Who knows what his background was. Dogs do tend to react differently to military personnel and police officers than they do to other people. They are people in positions of authority, and the dogs know. They walk differently, have a different timbre in their voices, and act very decisively. They've been trained to do that because civilians subconsciously react to those cues as well. In dogs that have been abused or have not been well socialized, the reaction to a person with that body language usually is aggressive. Defensively aggressive, yes, but aggressive just the same.

Dogs are dangerous. We tend to forget that because we share our lives with them every day. But they can kill us. If this had been an unstable person waving a weapon around who had already injured two people, nobody would question the police officer's actions. The police officer would not give that person a second chance to calm down in which he might kill someone. And he didn't in this instance either.

I think the blame rests solely, as it usually does, on the dog's owner. Aaron may have been completely well-meaning, but he made some truly terrible decisions that the dog paid an ultimate price for.


  1. I think people automatically assume "Oh my god, the cops shot a dog" and picture it being their dog, their pet, who could never hurt a fly, and assume that everyone knows their pet could never hurt a fly (I have two cats: they love killing flies), and assume that this person's pet was like this, and so feel that their own pet was in danger.

    The officer acted appropriately. I think anyone who looks at the situation honestly has to acknowledge that.

  2. Well said. Probably the best analysis of the situation I've read so far. You are absolutely correct, in my opinion, that the only creature at fault in the shooting is the dog's handler. It was his poor judgement that lit the fuse of this unfortunate situation.

  3. The dog had 4 broken legs as a result of Officer Fike throwing him down the stairwell...Knowing that can you still honestly say he was justified in shooting the dog? I can't. Kind of hard for a dog with 4 broken legs to stand up much less charge someone. And for the record, Aaron Block was not bitten and neither was officer Fike

  4. Aaron Block admitted that the Parrot instigated the situation by biting the poodle. He said that he "cut his hand in the dog's mouth," I just stated that basically that's the same thing as being bitten. Sorry, there's no one in the world who can convince me this guy sliced his hand open in the dog's mouth and the dog was doing absolutely nothing. Not in this situation. That just doesn't add up. And, no matter what witness you listen to, everyone agrees: The dog got up after the officer threw him in the stairwell. There is not a dog living that gets up with four broken legs. I'm sorry the dog was shot. But yes, I still think it was justified.

  5. Autopsy report on Parrot stated the dog had 4 broken legs. Has absolutely nothing to do with eyewitness accounts and no some witnesses said the dog was "trying to get up" when he was shot.

    Fome DCist: Then he shot the frightened, injured dog as he was trying to get back on his feet. I saw all this because I was standing on the porch of the Brass Knob looking down the basement steps. I have never witnessed anything so horrible...

  6. Do you have a link to this autopsy report? I have a link to an interview of the owner of Sushi, the Bichon/Poodle mix who was attacked by Parrot. Sushi had two broken legs. I have yet to see anywhere but here on my comments section anyone else claim that any injury was done to Parrot until the shot that killed him.

    Owner of Attacked Dog Supports Police

  7. Unfortunately, unless you are the Witness to the situation, it's all speculation.
    What would you expect of the dog that had been thrown down the stairs? The dog has to get up on it's feet. The dog's handler is all the way up there. It seems that the only action of the dog that would prevent shooting is just to stay on the ground, but what dog would do that?! Plus police called the dog a pitbull mix. If the dog was truly a shar-pei mix, they wouldn't even look alike. I've personally witness prejudice in the court of law to a dog just because it was a pitbull. Our society had become too sensitive to any dog that shows any sign of temper.public has become to expect any dog to behave as a "go happy lab". Any power breed brings fear in bystanders.
    Was the dog's handler at fault, no doubts! Did the dog bit him , no doubts again.
    Was the shooting justified ? Hard to say unless you've been there.

  8. I agree with you Yuliya, right up until you say our society has become too sensitive to any dog that shows temper. Up until about 75 years ago, when dog fighting was not illegal, and dog fights were a routine and common pastime in many states and countries, general rules of the fight were that the handler had to be able to put his or her (mostly his in those days) hands on the dog DURING the fight and not be bitten - even accidentally. A dog that bit - even accidentally - was destroyed on the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    Our society is a lot more lenient now towards dogs that bite than it ever was. There was a time that people felt if a dog even lifted a lip or growled at a family member, it was taken out back and shot, and this was a completely acceptable thing to do. Nevermind the fact that the dog might have been suffering rheumatoid arthritis and the grandkid stepped on it. Now, the dog at least has a chance at redemption before utter destruction. Usually.

  9. ACTUALLY... I had a very affectionate pit bull as a kid and I would do the same thing. Stick my hand in his mouth and wag his head gently back and forth. Than I would stroke his head. It was a sign of trust and love between us, I thought. HE EXPECTED IT. He never once bit me, and believe me, if he'd bit me he would have taken meat and possibly bone. The human hand and fingers HAS A LOT OF BONES AND NERVES.

    Same thing in this situation... a bloody bitten/mauled hand yanked from savage jaws would have been taken to the hospital for stitches at the very least.

    I've seen pictures of the distraut handler sitting on the sidewalk with his face IN HIS HANDS, the back of both hands visible. I didn't see any signs of mauling or biting, and there should have been at least severe scrapes on both sides if this dog had such a tight grip on his hand. He didn't act like his hand hurt. Likely it got scraped by a tooth when the officer yanked him off the dog. It would have been nearly impossible NOT to get scraped under those circumstances.

    My hand would have been scraped if I yanked it out of my dogs mouth.

    The officer claims to have been bitten... but from what I gather chasing information it was only later he made these claims. He denied medical treatment at the scene.

    A police officer gets bit by a pit that he then shoots in front of witnesses and KNOWS he has to do paperwork on, doesn't want to be seen by a MEDIC on scene? No. NO. WAY.

    His lawyer claims now that there were puncture wounds witnessed by a department medic later... but a report released by the department during this investigation states it was just a scrape. His initial claim in front of witnesses on scene was it was just a scrape.

    He also claims the dog moved to charge up the stairs, he shot it, and the dog fell down the stairs.

    Kind of hard to do with broke legs, isn't it? Charge up stairs?

  10. ...And come on lets get realistic here... the dog was out of control, correct? A very healthy 55 pound MUSCULAR dog... and yet this very tough macho man casually picked it up by the scruff of the neck and the skin of its lower back, carried it several feet to HOIST IT over a rail and throw it down like a sack... without getting bitten, scratched, pulling something... you get the picture.

    ummm... no. NOT LIKELY. Had the dog still been OUT OF CONTROL this would not have been remotely possible. The dog would have put up a very, very vicious twisting fight. MAN VS. ANIMAL. I dare anyone on this page to go grab a muscular angry dog they don't know JUST LIKE THAT, from a SQUAT position, carry it several feet, and hoist it up and throw it down COWBOY STYLE. PLEASE DO. LET ME TAKE PICTURES.

    Captain America would have had a problem maintaining control, and holding an angry dog of that weight and strength ARMS LENGTH. It was only possible to do without injury because the dog was clearly not fighting anymore. It had subdued.

    OTHERWISE... Every person in that crowd would have seen a snarling, snapping DEMON DOG trying to get loose from the officer to come after their children. PERIOD. Thats what you SEE when you look at a snapping pit bull you don't know, and you've got your kids with you.

    They didn't see that though.

    In fact, the three witnesses (a retired police officer, a restraunt owner, and the poodles owner) listed in the police report, claim not to have seen the shooting at all, the poodles owner didn't even see the dog restrained, but all agree the dog was out of control.

    They couldn't have witnessed much, could they? It happened in the course of moments. It was split second decisioning.

    Witnesses were gathered at the doorstep and the above stairwell, but none of them were questioned or noted by the police at the scene. No names were taken. STRANGE. They've all had to contact the department themselves.

    The owner of the poodle claims police helped her remove her poodle from the jaws of the pit... yet the police report claims they didn't even know another dog was involved, and thought the blood was from the handler.

    ???? Yeah. Thats their main witness.

    There are a lot of parties at fault in this one... who bit first... WHO was bit... but quite simply folks... DON'T LET YOUR DOG APPROACH A DOG IT DOESN'T KNOW, ESPECIALLY A MUCH BIGGER DOG.

    The poodle's owner clearly stated she did that... without asking permission from the other dog's handler.

    The pit/sharpei mix's handler was looking the other way, and didn't even see the Bich-Poo coming. Apparently the other dogs owner allowed her dog to approach them from behind.

    He has no idea how the whole thing started, but note that this dog (pit/sharpei) went regularly to adoption demonstrations and was around other dogs and never had a report of biting before now.

    I've owned many dogs, all sizes, I've owned two female poodles and a male poodle/chihuahua mix as well. All three poodles would get in the face of a much bigger dog and show fang, the poo-chi mix would take one on... and yes, I got in the middle of one of those with a black and tan hound, and was accidently bit. My poo-chi started the whole thing.

    My pit? Never had a problem. Even got along with the poo-chi mix.

    Will I ever own another pit? NO.

    Simply because of instances LIKE THIS.

    Had it been a Basenji or a Collie? Probably it would not have got chucked down a stairwell and shot in fear, before a scene could be properly accessed.

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