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Police vs. Animals: Are We Seeing a Trend?

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Former Boulder Police Officer Sam Carter poses with the elk he shot with his service gun while on duty. (credit: CBS)

Former Boulder Police Officer Sam Carter poses with the elk he shot with his service gun while on duty. (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

When the dog that was shot by a Commerce City police officer occurred, it was a sad incident that seemed somewhat isolated. Then only a few weeks later an elk, that many residents considered tame, was shot and posed with by an on-duty Boulder police officer.

And just this week, my friend Dominic Garcia reported about an Adams County police officer who allegedly shot and killed a border collie that belonged to a man who was in a property that the police mistakenly thought was the location they were called to check out.

RELATED: Police Shoot, Kill Dog When Going To A Home By Mistake

Just one of these incidents happening is tragic enough. Three in less than three months and people are bound to notice and do something about it.

The vigils and silent walks for the fallen elk in Boulder may have seen over the top by some, and I would tend to agree. However, there is little doubt that in each of these incidents, police officers were dealing with animals that were not threatening the public. And what is also not in doubt is that this is occurring at an astounding rate and in a variety of communities.

Police chiefs around the area can choose to take on this issue proactively, or watch the problem be taken care of for them.

Animal lovers and dog owners are not a quiet bunch, and pictures of shot pets can rally support effectively. That support can quickly be turned into political action if no real response comes from police departments.

I realize for folks who do not have pets, or may see dogs simply as furry property, this idea that animal lovers can amass political power seems strange. However, police departments should dismiss this influence at their own risk. Animal rights activists have flexed their muscle before in Colorado, and the recent shootings will likely spur that same power into action soon.

Police departments can do something about this issue and address it head on. However, if the response to the shooting in Commerce City by the Colorado State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police is any sign, proactive action is not likely. The CSLFOP fervently defends the officer in Commerce City and claims that the felony charge of animal cruelty has only occurred because of the public reaction to the shooting.

While I can’t argue the legal aspects of the case, it’s hard to imagine that District Attorney Don Quick would file a charge of felony animal cruelty simply to appease animal rights activists, but I digress.

Another reason why police departments would be wise to address this issue is that it is not a short stretch to assume that police officers who quickly decide to shoot dogs would likely make questionable decisions when faced with human threats. If the public feels that police throughout the community have itchy trigger fingers with border collies, how will the same officers handle unarmed human threats?

Being a police officer is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. And I, along with nearly everyone in our community, recognize that 99.9% of all police officers do their job well and with honor protecting all of us from harm.

However, when that .1% fails to live up to the high standards of their colleagues, it is up to the 99.9% to do something about it and call them out. We need to hear from police chiefs that our dogs are safe and our animals are respected. We need to know that these three examples are truly anomalies and are not representative of their colleagues. But the only way we can know this is if we hear from police departments directly.

If we don’t hear a direct response from police departments, our only choice is to believe these incidents are not accidents, but a sad and tragic trend. And if police chiefs are not willing to do something about it, then citizens will work hard to influence their city councils and elected leaders to make changes for them.

If we expect to live in a civil society, we must treat each other, and the animals around us, with respect. If we are willing to treat animals without respect, it’s a quick trip to treating each other the very same way.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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