Cops-shoot-dog stories feature prominently at Reason both because canine innocence tends to arouse our sympathy in ways that our fellow humans sometimes don't, and because the worst excesses of law-enforcement behavior are often on display in such incidents, many times without apology. But some police forces actually seem to specialize in pooch-poaching to an extent that either casts their neighbors in a comparatively good light or shames them, depending on whether you find puppycide horrfying or just good, clean, thin-blue-line fun. The police department in Elgin, Illinois, is one such agency, around which our canine friends are well-advised to break out their kevlar finery.
The Courier-News reports:
Since Jan. 1, 2008, Elgin police have shot a total of 23 dogs over the course of responding to 16 separate calls. All but four of the shootings resulted in killing the dogs — significantly more than in the larger Kane County cities of Aurora or Naperville.
Comparisons with Naperville and Aurora are helpful here, because otherwise we have just raw numbers without context. So it's worth taking a peek at eighboring communities to see how they're doing. According to Wikipedia, Elgin has a population of 108,188 and a population density of 4,300/square mile. Aurora has a population of 197,899 and a population density of 3,711.5 /square mile. Naperville has a population of 141,853 and a density of 4,025.38 / square mile. Naperville has almost twice the median household income of the other two cities, at $101,894.
And how do Aurora and Napierville compare for puppycide incidents?
In Naperville, for at least the last 10 years, police have not shot any dogs, Police Sgt. Greg Bell said.
And Elgin police dog-shooting numbers are higher than in the biggest city in Kane County, Aurora. According to Dan Ferrelli, Aurora director of public information, that city’s police have shot and killed eight dogs since Jan. 1, 2008.
I hesitate to mention that "In the last 15 years, according to Cmdr. Glenn Theriault, Elgin police have used their weapons in the line of duty only three times in incidents involving people," for fear that officers might feel inspired to bring such numbers up, rather than to drive dog-shooting incidents down. But this also strikes me as important, since humans have intelligence and tool-using skills that tend to render them more dangerous than animals. And yet, police have used their guns against potentially knife- or gun-wielding people far less often than against dogs.
It might be worth pointing out that animal control in Elgin is a responsibility of the police department, but a separate agency in Aurora. You know, when you have a hammer ...
Austin, Texas, recently revised its use of force policy for dealing with dogs after weathering a shit-storm of attention over a high-profile dog-shooting incident.