Ask A Cop

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Illustration: Steve Thueson

Hey Copper,

With all the hype over the local dog shooting controversy, I really want to know, what is the policy when it comes to dealing with animals? And was the SLC cop in the right in taking action, or was he just being a prick who didn’t want to deal with a barking dog?
Edwin’s Cat
Dear Nicolas,
There are a few concepts that we need to acknowledge. Although you’re a cat, I’ll address you as though you were a human. Cops never signed on to the job to kill dogs. It never entered their minds before taking their oath, and if they had a class on it in the police academy, some cadets would have quit. Extreme animal lovers will never accept the death of an animal over the death of or serious injury to a human. Some cops are extreme animal lovers. I have former cop friends who are no longer cops because of dog attacks (not to mention postmen). I have dogs. I love dogs.
Here is my take: One of the most volatile calls a cop goes on is where a neighbor has killed another neighbor’s dog or—I’m sorry—cat. The emotions are as bad, if not worse, than domestic-violence incidents. Every cop with at least one year on the force has been on one or more of these calls. So, cops know how the death of a pet emotionally and personally affects the owner.
In general, policy at law enforcement agencies is never going to require that a cop be bitten by a dog in order to perform their duty. Cops may defend themselves against aggressive dogs by ASP, taser, flashlight, radio, pepper spray, gunfire, fire extinguisher, bean bag, flash bang, punching, kicking, etc. A reasonable tactic that allows a cop to complete their statutorily demanded duty, and also defend from attack, is justified.
Again, there are extremists who will never accept this. Thankfully, reasonable people in this country—not social media—decide whether a cop’s actions were justified. They decide over hours when the cop had seconds. Any time a cop kills an animal in order to complete their duty, there will be a review. In the larger agencies like Salt Lake City, West Valley City and a couple others, the review is performed by regular civilians, like Edwin.
Why so much controversy now? My belief is social media, which is more prevalent than ever. Reasonable people post pics of their friends and family. Extremists or agitators post opinions and agitate (trolls), the same as those who comment on Internet news sites. Animal rights lovers are professed extremists, with some going so far as to advocate violence or death to those who believe differently.
This I can guarantee: No cop enjoys killing a dog. Because of the recent controversy, human beings (cops) are going to be injured by dogs because they’ll now hesitate. Animal rights extremists will accept the cop’s injury and end of their career as “just part of their job.” Finally, he wasn’t a prick—he was looking for a lost child.
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