The following story was reported by NBC on December 26, 2007.
Click here for story on-line
WASHINGTON -- A D.C. man is calling for an investigation after his dog was fatally shot by a police officer on Christmas Eve. Michel Morauw said he was walking Scooby, a 2 1/2-year-old boxer, in a small park near 24th and N streets Northwest just after 11 p.m. on Monday. According to the police department's incident report, an officer said he was on patrol and entered the park "when an unleashed dog attacked him." The report said the officer fired his weapon and struck the dog. Morauw said he is still in shock over what happened. He acknowledged the dog was not wearing a leash at the time, but he said the boxer posed no threat. Morauw said Scooby was eight to 10 yards away from the officer. The dog was frozen in fear, Morauw said. Morauw, general manager of the Park Hyatt Washington Hotel, described himself as very supportive of the police, but he said he can't understand how this happened. "It's a family dog. We have three kids. It was Christmas night. There was no reason," Morauw said.
The following story was reported 12/26 by USA9 (click here for story on-line)
DC Police Shoot Family's Pet Right In Front Of Them
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Michel Morauw took the family's two year old boxer Scooby for a walk in a park near 24th and N Street NW after Christmas Eve dinner. He was off the leash when he encountered Officer Michael Handy of the Second District. "All of a sudden I heard someone scream, hold your dog, and by the time I got around the gate, he was aiming at the dog." Tess Morauw was walking toward to park to join her husband and Scooby and heard the shot. "I called Scooby and he came running. My husband is screaming, he's shot, he's shot, and then I see the trail of blood leading back to the park,"she said. As Scooby lie dying on the sidewalk surrounded by his owners...they called their three daughters to come say goodbye. "Our youngest is in a wheelchair and she couldn't come, but one daughter made it in time." The Morauw's account differs from that of officer [X]... a 20 year veteran of the police department...who was dispatched to the park to handle a call. "He felt the dog was going to attack him so he discharged his service weapon," Second District Supervisor Captain Willie Smith said. "We're sorry the dog was shot, but if it had been on a leash this wouldn't have happened."
DC law requires animals to be on leashes while on public property. They can run off leash in official dog parks. The park at 24th and N is not one of them. Owners who violate the leash law can be fined 25 dollars for a first offense. Scooby's family is determined to make sure police release a full accounting on the night their dog died. "It doesn't matter what day it happens, but it's particularly difficult on Christmas Eve with our three daughters at home," Morauw said. "There needs to be a full and genuine investigation. I want to see that report."
(1) The officer was not injured during the incident. In fact, what we heard, the dog never touched the officer.
(2) From reliable sources who knew Scooby, we learned that Scooby was an extremely playful, gentle dog. Floppy and bouncy were the two words used to describe him. He was very much still a puppy at two years old, many who knew him said, but he was not a puppy.
(3) The area where Scooby was shot was the property of a middle school (Francis Middle School) with a condominium close nearby. We visted the scene at 11:00 p.m. and it is well lighted. The area was well known by police to be used as a de facto dog park. In fact, we learned from one person that officers from the nearby SOD used the area themselves behind the school (when school was not in session) to run their dogs themselves. But it was not a city sanctioned dog park because the city has very few of them, an issue that is still under consideration elsewhere.
(4) We also learned that at the time of the incident, Mr. Morauw was picking up after Scooby when Scooby heard the police officer yelling and then broke loose from him and ran around some trees toward the officer who had just gotten out of his cruiser. Mr. Morauw ran to Scooby, who by then was standing still a number of feet away from the officer. He yelled to the officer that Scooby was a good dog and wouldn't do anything. The officer ignored Mr. Morauw's screams and even as Mr. Morauw was running to get Scooby, before he could get Scooby the officer fired one shot and hit Scooby. Scooby cried out in pain and immediately ran down the street toward his home, about 100 feet away, and died.
(5) It is believed that the incident may have been captured on the security cameras of nearby buildings. (Police cruisers do not have video systems, we have learned.)
(6) We have also learned that altogether officers carry "nightsticks" (batons) and pepper spray, they do not carry tazers and may not consider the former two to be effective against certain dog attacks.
Blogger would also like to note the following.
In August 2005, a gentle Weimaraner named Peach was shot to death by a police officer in the dog's own yard when the police officer was responding to a false burglar alarm call. After that incident, Blogger wrote to Mayor Williams and City Councilman Jack Evans (in whose District both these incidents occurred) pleading with the city to develop a training program for police officers on how to handle dog situations. Details on how to start the program were included in the letter, based on a conversation Blogger had with the ASPCA in NY. The letter reported the results of an informal poll of several dozen police officers in the District that Blogger had just recently undertaken in which police officers said they received no training. Eventually, Blogger received a response from someone in the police department thanking him for his ideas, assuring him that there was a program developed in conjunction with the Washington Humane Society, but inviting him to call with further ideas. The following year, in September 2006, a dog named Princess was shot to death in a very busy Dupont Circle (by a Park Police offcier) under circumstances similar to Scooby's death.
BLOGGER HAS LEARNED AND IS ENCOURGED THAT INDEED THE CITY DID INSTITIUTE TRAINING FOR POLICE IN "WHAT DOGS ARE TRYING TO TELL COPS" AFTER THE ABOVE INCIDENT ON FOXHALL ROAD.
(7) Putting aside the training that police officers do or do not receive regarding handling animals, all police officers are required to follow the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on The Use of Force. In this case, the officer had available his knee, his baton, his pepper spray, his tazer gun to use before the lethal weapon. (We have learned that DC police do not carry tazer guns.)
(8) According To the American Humane, 90 percent of vicious dog encounters can be defused by proper training. If 90 percent of vicious dog encounters can be defused, 100 percent of non-vicious dog encounters can be. SCOOBY WAS NOT A VICIOUS DOG. HE WAS A TWO-YEAR OLD PLAYFUL DOG, STILL VERY MUCH A PUPPY ACCORDING TO THOSE WHO KNEW HIM. PLAYFUL DOGS DO NOT TURN VICIOUS EVEN WHEN PROVOKED.
How many times have we read about similar instances aorund the country where officers have shot innocent, gentle dogs that the dogs were attacking them when there is no evidence of an attack or even a touching? (Remember Patton in 2003 in Tennessee?) Why wasn't this officer trained how to recognize aggressive behavior in dogs and how to defuse aggressive behavior? What didn't the officer use his baton, pepper spray, or tazer before he used his gun? Was he properly trained in the DOJ's MOU on The Use of Force (against people or animals)? This was a 20-year veteran of the police force who shot Scooby, and not some rookie police officer.
It seems that as long as police officers do not receive appropriate training on how to handle dogs, the fine for having your dog off a leash is no longer $25, but could be your dog's life. Let's hope that due process, not to mention common sense, did not die on Christmas eve along with poor Scooby. While we can rightly say that this sad incident would not have happened had Scooby been on a leash, that would be equivalent to saying that police officers have the right to kill all dogs off a leash or that police officers can use lethal force against someone who approaches them when the officers are writing a parking ticket. (No police officer I've met here would say that.) The truth is, this also would not have happened if the officer had been trained properly on the handling of dogs and the DOJ MOU on The Use of Force. The training is first and foremost for an officer's protection and then the public's, including their dogs. The officer involved in this shooting has as much a right to our sympathy as Scooby does. No one would not believe him if he said he thought he was about to be attacked by a vicious dog. But based on the facts that we have garnered, then officer might not have recognized that Scooby was not vicious and might not have known what to do if he had been.
THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG IS NOT TO THROW STONES AT ANYONE ABOUT THE EVENT OF DECEMBER 24T. WHAT HAPPENED, HAPPENED, AND NO ONE CAN CHANGE IT. LIKEWISE, NONE OF US HAS ANY SAY OVER WHAT THE MPD'S INTERNAL REVIEW COMES UP WITH. BUT WE DO HAVE A SAY IN HELPING THE POLICE DEPARTMENT IMPROVE ITS TRAINING FOR THE FUTURE, AND THAT'S WHAT THIS BLOG IS ALL ABOUT. MOST OFFICERS WOULD KNOW WHAT TO DO. THOSE WHO DO NOT SHOULD DEMAND THE TRAINING. AND WE KNOW THAT THEMPD WANTS TO IMPROVE ITS TRAINING.
Blogger invites your attention to a comment beneath this posting from someone obviously knowledgeable about these matters in general, and our comment after that.