Wednesday, May 28, 2008

4-- Letter To Washington Humane Society

Washington Humane Society
7319 Georgia Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20012

RE: Complaint of Animal Cruelty

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you as the institution responsible for investigating allegations of animal cruelty in the District of Columbia, a responsibility you share by law with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). My purpose is to report an alleged incident of animal cruelty of which I have become aware, and to ask that you investigate it and, if appropriate, refer any findings to the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office for criminal prosecution.

The incident to which I am referring involves the shooting of the dog Precious on the evening of May 23, 2008, in the yard of her owner, Michael Bailey, at 5304 Clay Terrace NE, Washington, DC 20019. Although I did not personally observe the incident, I have gathered enough information to believe that a felonious act of animal cruelty might have been committed by the MPD officer (badge #431, I believe) on his way to a nearby criminal incident. Apparently, when Precious, tied up in her own yard, started to crawl under her gate and bark at the officer as he ran by her house, the officer stopped and fired two shots at her, but missed. As Sloan Lewis, the partner of Michael Bailey, grabbed Precious and held her between her legs screaming, "I have her," the officer stopped and fired four additional bullets into her, killing her. There were witnesses, I understand, including children and elderly.

If the facts as alleged are true, this incident would be among the worst incidents of animal cruelty I have heard about in the District of Columbia. As a citizen, I am concerned that if this officer did commit a felony and appropriate action is not taken, other dogs in the District will surely die, not to mention what might happen to nearby individuals, the latter of which is not a legislated concern of yours. Therefore, I am asking that the Washington Humane Society undertake an investigation under its charge to investigate all acts of animal cruelty in the District. I would not be asking for this if this were similar to other instances of police shooting dogs, where officers, untrained to handle dogs and afraid of them, mistakenly believed they were being attacked, or instances where dogs were trained as weapons purposely employed to deflect police officers during criminal busts.

Although I am aware that the WHS shares responsibility for investigating allegations of animal cruelty with the MPD in the District, I am aware of no provision that would preclude the WHS from undertaking this investigation on its own. But, separately, I have requested Police Chief Cathy Lanier to not interpose any objection to the WHS's investigation. Also, I am aware of no provision in the law exempting police officers, on- or off-duty, from the criminal laws of the District of Columbia, including the animal cruelty statutes. Indeed, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)) between the Department of Justice and the District of Columbia specifically anticipates that they would be subject to those laws: "The [District's] Policy also will advise that the use of excessive force will subject officer to discipline and possible criminal prosecution and/or civil liability". Finally, although the MOU says that "Allegations of excessive force involving a serious use of force. . . will be investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility, " I do not interpret that provision as precluding the WHS from conducting a concurrent investigation on its own, especially since the MPD seems to have opted to not apply the MOU to incidents involving the shootings of animals, as evidenced by the way it conducts investigations required by the MOU and those involving the shootings of dogs.

Needless to say, I do not expect the WHS to investigate issues such as the use of fatal force where children and elderly were also in harm's way, or whether the dog Precious was interfering with a crime in process, as these issues, it is hoped, will be adequately covered by the investigation conducted by the MPD's professional and independent Firearms Investigation Team, if indeed Chief Lanier orders such an investigation contrary to current procedure, as I have recommended. The current procedure, as you may know, is that investigations of shootings of dogs are conducted by lieutenants in the same districts as the officers who did the shooting, even if people were present nearby and in harm's way. I --- and I know that many citizens of the District of Columbia feel the same way --- am concerned about whether anyone, a police officer or a civilian, has the right to use fatal force against a dog, restrained, on its own property, and under complete control between the legs of its owners, if the dog barks at someone and the person "fears for his life," as Commander Robert Contee said #431 did. The results of your investigation would, of course, be merged with the results of any internal investigations by the MPD and appropriate actions pursed after that. Indeed, if your investigation finds that no act of animal cruelty was involved, it would go a long way to clear the officer's name, although that would certainly complicate matters for the citizens of the District, and their dogs.

Again, I was not an observer to this event. (Until the incident, I knew no one connected with it, and I am submitting this complaint on my behalf alone.) But as a citizen, if I know of an act of cruelty to an animal in the District, I am obligated to report it, and so I am. I am also concerned about the chilling effect that this incident, if uninvestigated, will have on all dogs in the District. Therefore, I would appreciate knowing if your determination is that you are not permitted or authorized to pursue this investigation, so that I can work toward getting that restriction lifted for the future.

Thank you.


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