Blogs: The Sheriff's Take
Protecting Your Dog

Do you include your dog in your home-defense plan?

by Sheriff Jim Wilson

January 08, 2013

From time to time we see reports of police shooting a dog in the course of responding to a call for assistance or while executing a warrant for search or arrest. Without a doubt, some of these incidents may be the result of poor training or the lack of proper planning on the part of law enforcement. However, that is of little comfort to the citizen when his family pet has been destroyed. With some thought, planning, and training, this kind of tragedy can often be avoided.

Having a family dog should be viewed as a commitment on the part of the dog owner. Besides proper feeding and regular vet care, the dog also needs basic obedience training. The animal should be taught to come on command, as well as to sit and to stay. Your dog should understand that “No” means that he is to stop what he is doing and pay attention to you. In short, you should be able to control your dog whether it is loose, or on a leash. This sort of training is surprisingly effective and  inexpensive. The local pet store or your vet can direct you to trainers who can educate both you and your dog.

Allowing a dog to run loose in the neighborhood is not only a way to make enemies of all of your neighbors, it is also virtually a guarantee that the dog will come to the attention of the authorities. If the animal is not in a fenced enclosure, it should be on a leash and under your control. Training and controlling your pet will go a long way towards keeping it safe, not to mention how much your neighbors will appreciate you.

Sadly, the police can’t look at a dog and determine that it is harmless anymore than they can tell the good guys from the bad guys simply by looking at them. However, dealing with family pets ought to be part of every policeman’s training. And every tactical unit should develop plans for neutralizing a dog without harming it, if at all possible. Pet owners in a community might even consider opening a dialog with local law enforcement to address these issues and help develop this training.

We talk about the importance of having a plan for protecting your family. The family dog is a valuable part of most families and deserves protection as well. The solution is planning and training. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?


January 08, 2013 06:16:50 pm
Bull. This is a treatise on "the [expletive] cops are going to shoot your dog because he is a dog and they are cops." There are too many instances of dogs being shot by cops while they are restrained to believe this crap. Cops like to shoot dogs because they can. Dogs respond to abnormal conditions - such as strangers entering their territory - and cops use that response as an excuse to shoot the dog. Not that effing cops need any excuse to shoot a dog. Example: Mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Maryland had his two Labrador retrievers in his kitchen shot and killed by cops during a police "drug raid" caused by a druggie shipping drugs to his porch by UPS which the cops figured out and about which Mayor Calvo knew nothing. On entry the cops shot the dogs only because they were dogs, and cops can shoot dogs without any penalty.

January 08, 2013 06:20:51 pm
This advice would be much more persuasive if such a large percentage of the dogs killed weren't ON leashes, or stopped in place, or fleeing, or coming to an officer that was calling them while fenced into their own yard. It seems to me that the best way to protect pets is to get police out of the habit of destroying them on a whim.

A Dog Owner
January 08, 2013 01:58:52 pm
Here, let me fix that for you: Sadly, police are trained to kill family pets as a matter of course during execution ot search warrants. Period. Any other assertion is just a bald faced lie.

January 08, 2013 05:29:20 pm
But.... They shoot dogs in crates.

January 08, 2013 11:19:09 pm
Shame on you, Sheriff, for trying to defend the indefensible. I wonder what sort of behavior it would take for you to actually condemn a police officer? Perhaps we should re-align the training that law enforcement receives, to de-emphasize pet murder and to focus on being able to respond to school shootings in less than 20 minutes.

January 09, 2013 12:58:44 am
Yeah. this article really stinks. I don't think you have the right to let your pets run loose, but he wants to make it the pet owners fault that cops are taught to kill the dogs first thing when they arrive on scene. Look chief. If the dog is barking and acting in aggressive manner because jack-booted thugs have descended on it's home, it is because that is exactly what dogs are bred to do. Tell me you don't expect and train for that exact behavior in your cop K-9s.

Jim Wilson
January 09, 2013 09:15:26 am
My point is that, as a dog owner, you should first have a well behaved dog, then, second, put pressure on the police to change their policies, if that is necessary.

January 09, 2013 08:24:15 am
Comments...'My point is that, as a dog owner, you should first have a well behaved dog, then, second, put pressure on the police to change their policies' Our point, Mr. Wilson, is that you are well-paid to keep your goons from shooting unarmed, harmless life forms. And you can't do it. so you put the blame on the dog-owners. That is dangerous for the community you swore an oath to protect.

January 09, 2013 09:15:27 am
Here we are, putting pressure on police -YOU- to stop killing our dogs on their own property when the police shouldn't be there then lying about it. Why don't you do some research on Puppycide then write an article about that? And call out the police who wrongly shoot dogs.

Harley Sanders
January 12, 2013 05:24:49 am
Comments...If UPS drivers, mail delivery people, door to door salesmen [(]including Girl Scouts[)], and all other unarmed, non adrenaline junky people can come into a yard without being attacked or killing a family pet, why can't police? I think most of the ones who shoot pets are either cowards with a gun or sadistic. There is no reason for a pet to be killed, except possibly in a hot pursuit situation. Most house pets are killed in non-violent confrontations. Your article is well intentioned, but flat out wrong.

bob dickey
January 17, 2013 07:05:56 pm
Excellent point about all the delivery people that able to deal with pet dogs without killing them. Makes perfect the argument against the excuses be made by the author of the article.

January 09, 2013 10:47:25 am
Wilson, who is usually entertaining if not informative, is simply not up to speed on this topic. There is simply too much data about police shooting dogs while cutting across property they have no business being on, shooting polite, well-behaved dogs, shooting dogs at the wrong address, dogs behind fences, dogs who are retreating, et,et. He should read "The Agitator" blog and look up "puppycide" if he is going to risk his brand expounding on this subject. Those folks track it in news stories nationwide. Our postal service goes to every address in the nation and never shoots a dog. They are TRAINED to handle canine situations. The police should be at least as well trained. What I hear, and what Jim probably knows, is that police officers are separated into two groups: those who have fired their guns in the line of duty in a legitimate shoot and those who haven't. MANY LEOs are desperate to make their bones and join the top group, even if it means shooting a dog.

Vance Justice
January 09, 2013 06:55:26 am
Sheriff Wilson, isn't it true that any person, whether a law enforcement officer or not, who enters the private property of another without either the owner's permission or a warrant and causes damage to the owner's property is guilty of trespass vi et armis, and that it is the property owner's right to employ force to defend his life and property?

January 09, 2013 07:18:39 am
Here, I fixed it for you. Without a doubt, some of these incidents may be the result of poor training or the lack of proper planning on the part of law enforcement.' Without a doubt most of these incidents may be the result of poor training or the lack of proper planning on the part of people who barely got through high school, and have REALLY been looking forward to firing off that shiny new gun. I mean those legal classes were Boooooorrrrring!!! Amiright? Amiright? I mean, phhhsst. We don't get CHARGED with things! We can't even be BLAMED! Fire away, compadres! Its not like they can do anything about it after the fact! Hey if they complain, I bet you can find a way to charge with with 'obstructing' or something! Classic!

January 09, 2013 09:44:18 am
Ooooo, Sheriff Jim - I don't think this audience is buying what you're selling. Probably because it is [expletive].

Jim Wilson
January 09, 2013 03:31:28 pm
Vance...LEO may enter property if they have a warrant, if they observe a crime, or if they believe that someone's life is in immediate danger. Police officers should not damage any more property or use any more force than is necessary on people or animals. If they use unnecessary force, they should be held accountable and the law allows for this thru citizen complaints and lawsuits.

The Packetman
January 09, 2013 01:35:57 pm
Sheriff, the biggest problem is the news report we never hear: 'Sheriff Joe Schmuckatelli personally apologized today to Mr and Mrs Bill Smith for the 3a.m. wrong-address SWAT drug raid that resulted in heavy damage to the Smiths' home and the death of the family dog who was sleeping in a crate. No drugs were found. Sheriff Schmuck said that an investigation into how the SWAT team was sent to the wrong address was underway and assured citizens that whoever was responsible would face a disciplinary hearing. The officer who shot the sleeping animal has been disciplined, sent for retraining on handling animals and reassigned to patrol duty. The Sheriff offered to compensate the family for the loss of their dog and has arranged for the family to get another dog. He also told the family to have their home repaired and to sent the bill to the sheriff's department.' Instead, what we all too often hear [(]if anything[)] is that 'after a thorough internal affairs investigation all of the officers involved were found to have followed department policy'.

January 18, 2013 03:03:17 am
To The Packetman-- Thank you and Amen!

January 09, 2013 02:33:14 pm
And if they enter a person's property for any other reason than those you stated? And cause damage or loss of life?

Jim Musumeci
January 10, 2013 12:18:51 am
Sheriff, we agree that 'If they use unnecessary force, they should be held accountable' [(]although I would add 'but never are'[)], but I think everyone here--including you--knows that your claim that 'the law allows for this through citizen complaints and lawsuits' is a bunch of baloney. We have learned that citizen complaints turn out to be pretty useless. Witness Austin, Texas, where the police department instituted a 'policy review' and 'new training and procedures' after the dog Cisco was killed for no reason. Within two weeks of the new policies, another dog was killed, this one on a chain in its own yard. Within a day of the killing the 'entire chain of command' reviewed the shooting and deemed it justified. Really? A dog on a chain? In its own yard? Justified? The lawsuit route is also very difficult. Many officers are protected from personal liability because they commit their crimes on the job. [[]I'm sure you object to my use of the word 'crimes,' but that's what we'd call it if we did it. The fact that you wear a badge doesn't exonerate you.] Even if a case can get to court, it is often limited by the fact that the law considers pets to be personal property and to have a trivial dollar value. So, where does this leave us? With a population that has little respect for law enforcement officers, and is losing more daily. You will start regaining that respect when you take personal responsibility for your actions instead of claiming the solution to the police-killing-dogs problem is that the dogs be better trained.

Cindy Boling
January 10, 2013 10:27:40 am
Comments...Jim - First, I want to recognize the positive effort that you are attempting to make in your comment about police shooting dogs. You have recognized that a police officer's option of first choice is to use lethal force - and THAT MUST BE CHANGED. I live in Fort Worth Texas, my Lily - a well trained border collie - was stopped, standing on all four feet, in my yard, and turned to come to me in response to my call - BUT Officer Frank Brown in less than a minute shot her between the shoulder blades because 'he thought our other dog [[]that never approached him] was a pitbull SO HE SHOT THE DOG CLOSEST TO HIM' his official statement.... Training on animal encounters is absolutely lacking in law enforcement agencies across our country. In response to Lily, our Chief Halstead implemented an 8-hour mandatory classroom training of all officers with a continuing education mandate also - Arlington TX followed suit. We are now trying to get the TX Leg to mandate this across TX. question to is - does you department or have you, mandated animal encounter training for your officers, and if so, has it been implemented? If you have not mandated training why not? If you need info on a program contact Chief Halstead. Cindy Boling for Remembering Lily a Reason for Change [(]f/book page[)]

January 18, 2013 03:07:54 am
Dear Cindy -- my heart goes out to you. So sorry to learn about what happened to Lilly. It's unconscionable.

September 07, 2014 03:44:14 am
The outcome is not acceptable. Brown should suffer the same penalty dealt to someone who kills a police dog while on duty. The 14th Amendment and its Equal Protection clause holds that everyone must be treated the same before the law. Brown definitely would be in prison if there were justice. But once a criminal becomes a policeman, he gets all manner of favoritism. He blasted the dog because he feels he isn't a real policeman until he's used deadly force, and a dog is a consolation prize to killing a person. That same city I read has another "law enforcement officer" who blasted a homeowner in his own garage. The cop controlled grand jury refused to indict the cop, and the evil mayor there very likely snickered about the rubber stamp procedure. The cop's excuse? He said "the lighting was poor," well it's been dark at night for thousands of years. These people have spotlights. They are really driven by hate and cruelty and are more dangerous to us than Iran ever dreamed of being.

January 09, 2013 02:13:12 pm
I wonder if the Sheriff, who is quick to tell us how our dogs should be trained, would be willing to go on record with how much training his officers receive on an annual basis regarding canines and how to deal with them, read their body language, and determine if a dog is aggressive or scared? How about it Sheriff? What canine training do your officers receive?

Dave Hummels
January 09, 2013 06:39:45 pm
Sheriff, your lecture about how us irresponsible 'civilians' should properly train our pets, so as not to annoy or frighten supposedly well-trained police officers, comes off as totally condescending. You also are not aware of--or are deliberately ignoring--the extent of the dog-shooting problem in policing. Put bluntly, this is an ill-informed, unfortunate article. Let me close by commenting on this part: 'And every tactical unit should develop plans for neutralizing a dog without harming it, if at all possible.' Well that sounds nice if you are not familiar with how SWAT operates. Here's the problem: shooting the dogs during raids seems to be a psychological tactic, not an accident. It is just too common. Based on my personal research, I believe tactical officers are intentionally shooting dogs in order to establish their dominance over the people in the residence. If it is not a tactic, then these officers--who wear body armor, thick boots and an array of weapons and gadgets--are simply cowards who should turn in their badges and find jobs where they don't encounter scary dogs or uppity, opinionated 'civilians' [(]like me[)]. By the way, the best way to avoid encounters with vicious puppies is not to suddenly invade the homes they live in. Dogs are territorial and will naturally defend their home and their humans. If tactical responses were not being used to serve warrants on so many people that are not suspected of violent offenses, then these confrontations would occur less. Don't bring violence into a situation where no violence is occurring! End the drug war and we'd all be a lot safer.

January 10, 2013 08:44:53 am
Humans being the most dangerous predator on the planet, one can just as easily argue that police have no idea whether any human is immediately dangerous or not. Any human of any age. If the uncertainty of a dog's actions justifies killing it on sight just to be sure, what then is justified by the fact that any human is inherently more dangerous than any dog? Today our dogs. Tomorrow our toddlers.

January 10, 2013 11:05:57 pm
While the "local pet store or your vet can direct you to trainers who can educate both you and your dog," neither the pet store nor the vet has any information about trainers who can educate my local cop. Even if "police can’t look at a dog and determine that it is harmless anymore than they can tell the good guys from the bad guys simply by looking at them," we, for the most part, don't allow our police officers to shoot every person walking toward them on the off chance they guy might have a parking ticket. The vast majority of the public are law abiding citizens and unless they are given actual reasons to determine otherwise police should treat us all as such. The same with dogs. If an officer "can’t look at a dog and determine that it is harmless" then he can't determine if the dog is a threat either. Killing anything because your "not sure" isn't how police should be trained. Unfortunately, no one punishes the bad cops. Not even a swat on the nose with the Sunday sports section.

January 12, 2013 05:41:59 am
I do not recall seeing any news story where a law enforcement officer has been killed by a dog.

January 16, 2013 03:11:04 am
The best way to protect your pet is to give them proper training

January 17, 2013 08:13:57 pm
I think police officers should get some training from mail carriers. They seem to be able to deliver the mail at every dog occupied address in the US without having to kill them. The problem is police training, not dog training.

January 18, 2013 07:42:28 am
Do you have any home defense suggestions for preventing law enforcement officers from coming to my address in error? How do I defend against that?