Out in Colorado we learned the answer to the question in the title of this post. A dog can be worth a lot of money if somebody shoots it for no good reason, and that includes police officers. (Yahoo News)
A Colorado dog owner received $262,000 in a settlement over a police shooting of his dog, one of the largest-ever settlements in this type of case.
Officer Robert Price of Commerce City, Colo., shot and killed a dog in 2012 during response to a report of a “loose, vicious dog” while the owner, Gary Branson, was out of town, Allison Sylte reported for USA Today. The officer was found not guilty of animal cruelty, but a neighbor filmed the encounter, and the resulting video showed the dog, Chloe, cowering before three officers.
The large, monetary settlement comes as society is demonstrating a decreased tolerance for offenses against animals – and police use of excessive force generally. Earlier in January, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began the collection of data on animal abuse, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The FBI points to research showing criminals who harm other humans egregiously often begin by hurting animals.
This case was outrageous when it first hit the news and it’s no less disgusting now. The cop involved in the shooting was charged with animal cruelty, but was acquitted. I have no idea why. There’s a video out there of the shooting (filmed by a neighbor) but I won’t even link to it here because it’s so disturbing. The dog in this case was not attacking the officer or anyone else and, in fact, was cowering in fear. I understand that some dogs are raised improperly and can be extremely aggressive or territorial. While that’s the owner’s fault and not the dog’s, there will still unfortunately be times when a dog has to be dispatched. That wasn’t the case here.
What’s more interesting is the size of the settlement and whether or not this signals an emerging trend around the nation. As the report points out, there are now 46 states where severe animal cruelty is punishable as a felony, marking a rather rapid change from the days when dogs and cats (as well as other animals) were simply considered property. I’ve never been one to advocate for animal “rights” because they don’t really have any in the same way that people do, but that’s no excuse for wanton cruelty and causing the needless suffering of a defenseless animal.
As a side note, when I was discussing this case with a couple of friends one of them remarked that I seem to have more sympathy for dogs than I do for criminal suspects and I come down harder on the cops in defense of an animal than some human beings. I can’t really argue with that one. I’ve never known an evil dog but there are plenty of evil people out there. There are far more cases of humans getting shot by cops where it’s totally justified.
Also from the article, there are some resources out there which might make unfortunate events such as this one less common.
To provide a similar resource to police, the National Canine Research Council published an hour-long training video. With help from the Department of Justice, the New York-based think tank produced videos to avoid, communicate with, or respond to dog encounters in the line of duty, according to its website.
“First and foremost, Police and Dog Encounters is about staying safe,” according to a news release. “It gives officers hands-on skills and information to protect themselves, the residents nearby, and the dogs they encounter in the line of duty.”
There’s some good stuff in there and I hope more police departments look into these types of training resources.