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 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.