Without doing anything to try to calm the dog, a Hawthorne, Calif. police officer shot him dead after he started barking at the officers. The dog writhed and yelped in the street.
The striking brutality of the video is reminiscent of a video taken last summer of NYPD officers shooting a homeless man’s pit bull in the face. (Unlike Max, the pit bull named Star lived.)
Roughly half of all firearms discharges by police officers involve shooting a canine, according to an ASPCA review of public records. There is an entire Facebook page devoted to sad stories of people whose dogs were killed by police.
One was a labrador retriever shot by a police officer after a pit bull began trying to fight with it. In Colorado this summer, police shot a pit bull named Sara after it got out of its owners house and apparently tried to bite a 10-year-old.
And a pair of roommates in Concord, Calif. say police shot their 13-year-old cocker spaniel in the shoulder when it barked at them as they looked for a suspicious person in the neighbourhood.
Some of the dogs on the “Dogs shot by police” Facebook page have reputations for being aggressive — mainly, pit bulls — so it’s understandable why cops might freak out and fear for their safety.
But the Justice Department issued guidelines about how police should handle dogs that say “lethal force is a last resort and rarely necessary.” When responding to aggressive dogs, cops should first try using tranquilizer guns, chemical repellents, and batons. Police might even try scaring dogs with a fast-opening umbrella.
It’s clear that police don’t always use lethal force as a last resort, though. Many police departments give cops broad authority to shoot dogs if they think they’re in “imminent danger,” according to the ASPCA.
In the case of Max, Hawthorne police issued a statement saying they feared the “attacking Rottweiler would imminently attack the officer.” But cops rarely get any real training on how to quickly assess how dangerous a dog is, according to the ASPCA.
“Although they may encounter truly dangerous dogs in some situations,” the ASPCA says on its website, “the majority of dogs they are likely to meet are well-behaved family pets that are legitimately protecting their homes and families from intruders.”
Here’s the video of Max being shot:
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