Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dogs and Cops

It's happened again. A police officer shot a canine and now the dog community is all kinds of in a tizzy.

In a search for a missing child, an officer in Utah went on private property where he shot and killed a weimerainer, Geist, in his own yard. I love my dogs. I mean, I really really freaking love my dogs. Jon and I have seriously built our life around our pack. Seriously, some of the things we sacrifice and do for them borderline insanity at times. They are a part of our family and if anything like this happened to one of them, I'd be completely beside myself heartbroken. The mere thought of losing Annie particularly makes my heart ache.
Now there's a group of people demanding justice for poor Geist. Dog people, of course. While I AGREE that the death of this beautiful creature is a tragedy, and a sign that we need to do better, I don't think going after this officer like he's a murder-happy, dog-hating first class jerk is the answer. I can't get on board with that, and here's why.
Imagine for a moment that you have the safety and welfare of your entire community in your hands. Your job requires you to make some life-changing and sometimes life-ending decisions for other people because SOMEONE has to do it. Imagine that every time you stepped out of your front door, you had to consciously think about the fact it could be the last time you see your family. Imagine if a "bad day" at work easily meant a fatal injury and not just cubicle gossip and a broken copy machine. Imagine putting your life on the line for your community- a community that often times is unappreciative and critical. There are those who will relate to that- particularly military and law enforcement- and then there are those of us who make up the majority who will NEVER know what it feels like to HAVE TO make a split second judgement call that could take another person's (or in this case- dog's) life. We will NEVER know what that's like. But we are quick to think we know what we'd do.
There's speculation to if this missing child search even had reason to be on that property. Many have their panties in a bunch because this officer supposedly had no reason to be there in the first place. To this I say- do you really think this man was having a grand ol' time poking around aimlessly? Do you really think that he went out in search for a dog to shoot for kicks and giggles? If this is your impression I venture to say I think you are sorely mistaken.
I *HUGELY* believe that police officers need constant and more extensive education on canine aggression. I think they are ill-equipped to determine when a dog is a true threat and when they're not and as a result of this animals die. It's not acceptable. I think there are a good chunk of times that dogs are harmed or killed because their body language and signals are misread or misinterpreted as aggression. I think the general dog community has a hard time accepting the fact that sometimes to keep people safe- animals have to die.
I have five dogs living on my property right this second. I can tell you that all of them are sweethearts. They have all slept in my bed, they live in my house, they are a part of my family. I love them dearly. I trust them with my son. I enjoy their companionship. They are well-trained, well-socialized, and not at all a threat to society.
I also recognize that they're dogs. And that a 140lb strange dog is probably intimidating to someone who isn't particularly a giant breed enthusiast. I also recognize that if they feel threatened, they would be particularly intimidating.
I have one, my largest male, who avoids conflict at all costs. He is protective. He would growl at an intruder. A 140lb dog growling at you is probably something nightmares are made of for most people. I have no doubts that he would bite if he felt pushed, but I also know someone could probably walk through my entire house and as long as they didn't actually approach him, he wouldn't approach them either. I don't expect a stranger to know this. A growling dog to someone not well-informed on canine behavior- is perceived as a serious threat.
I have one, a female, that probably wouldn't hesitate to bite your face off if you came on the property. Yes, indeed, if an officer had reason to come in my back yard, unannounced and unsupervised... he probably would have to shoot her to protect himself. I pray that never happens.
I know one of my dogs is friendlier than friendly and would beeline to an intruder convinced that a member of his fan club had arrived and it was now his duty to be a complete ham. I know this dog well. I know he's the most bombproof dog I've ever met and that he isn't in any way a danger. I also know that a 130lb dog charging straight at you is hugely intimidating for most people, wagging tail or not.
My point is- you can't expect a stranger to know your dogs. There's a huge call for this officer- this man who daily puts his life on the line to protect YOU- to be fired.
Let me remind you, folks... this was a missing CHILD search. A 3 year old. This officer was doing his job, combing the area. What would you suggest he do if that were YOUR child? Skip all yards with dogs because.... why? Because a dog's life is valued over a child's? Sadly in much of the dog fanatic community this is the case. And it disgusts me.

I do NOT support the "Justice for Geist" movement because I feel it is misdirected. I think if officers are expected to enter people's property where there may be companion animals then we need to better equip them to make those terribly difficult judgement calls. We need to supply them with the correct information on how to most accurately assess a TRUE canine aggression threat. Too many animals die every year simply because someone doesn't know the difference between a dog that is a bite/ attack risk and a dog that is not. I am ALL FOR requiring more in this area.

In saying ALL of this I will acknowledge the issue of crooked cops, particularly that it is especially a problem in Utah right now. I don't overlook that. But I also don't think that is relevant to this case. This was a case of an officer doing his job- looking for a missing child- and doing what he felt necessary to protect his life from a threat. Perception is reality. 

No comments:

Post a Comment