A Minnesota family is facing thousands of dollars in veterinary bills after a Minneapolis police officer climbed into their backyard while responding to a burglar alarm and shot their two dogs, neither of which appeared to be charging him.
A Facebook video of the Saturday shooting posted by the dogs' owner, Jennifer LeMay, shows a Minneapolis Police Department officer walking into her backyard after climbing over a 7-foot-tall privacy fence. One of the family's Staffordshire terriers runs toward the officer, who backpedals and draws his gun. The dog stops, looking confused, and then trots toward the officer again, wagging its tail. The officers shoots the dog, which flees, and then the family's other terrier as it runs up into the frame.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, LeMay's two teenage daughters arrived home on Saturday night and accidentally tripped the burglar alarm. LeMay, away from the house, called the security company and deactivated the alarm. Two Minneapolis police officers arrived shortly after, but instead of knocking on the front door, one went around to the back yard.
Watch the video of what happens next:
The Star Tribune reports:
LeMay said her 13-year-old daughter saw the entire incident from her upstairs bedroom.
"He was wagging his tail," LeMay said of Ciroc. "My dog wasn't even moving, lunging toward him or anything.
"My dogs were doing their job on my property," she said. "We have a right to be safe in our yard."
After the dogs' shooting, another officer knocked on the front door. The 18-year-old explained that she'd triggered the alarm and that it had been deactivated.
The family didn't instantly take the dogs to the emergency vet because police told the family that "animal control" would be there in minutes to assess the dogs' medical needs. No one showed up, LeMay said.
The LeMays ended up taking their dogs to an emergency vet. Both survived, although LeMay now has thousands of dollars in bills. The two dogs are emotional support animals for her two sons. The Minneapolis Police Department has apologized to the family and released a statement saying it is investigating the Facebook video and the officer's body cam footage.
These types of shootings happen regularly, athough how often is hard to say, since dog shootings are generally not tracked outside of local media reports. In the past, these shootings were mostly a PR problem for police departments. Now they're also exorbitantly expensive for municipalities (and taxpayers). Plaintiffs suing departments have began receiving not just compensatory damages but also punitive damages for emotional distress. This May, a Maryland jury awarded $1.26 million to a family whose Chesapeake Bay Retriever was shot and killed by an Anne Arundel County deputy—the largest ever verdict for a police shooting of a dog.
As I reported earlier this month, there are currently three ongoing federal civil rights lawsuits against the Detroit Police Department for shooting family dogs during marijuana raids. Last year the department settled a similar lawsuit for $100,000.
Although a small number of states have passed laws requiring police officers to receive some training on dog encounters—spurred by incidents like the shooting of LeMay's dogs—most police officers still aren't trained to read canine body language, leading to fatal encounters when they meet in close quarters. And police and dogs are interacting more than ever, due to the explosion in pet ownership over the last few decades and the rise in search warrant executions. Without better training to avoid outcomes like this one—or, in cases like Detroit's, a drastic change in how police aggressively fight the drug war—these shootings will continue.
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