Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Gotta Disagree With You There...

The Truth About Firearms (TTAG) has nominated a Filer, Idaho, cop (Tarik Hassani) as their irresponsible gun owner of the day, based on his shooting one of two dogs that was jumping all around him. The officer was at the house because of a "dogs at large" complaint. 

TTAG opines that the officer was grossly negligent. Many of the comments at the TTAG site also criticize the officer, primarily on two reasons: (1) the dogs were not, in their opinion, being aggressive, and/or (2) the officer could have used a non-lethal response.

First of all, the dogs actually were being aggressive, showing a common aggressive behavior--jumping at and around the officer. This article at Dog Breed Info relates:
Below are some common behaviors dogs display when they believe they are above humans. Keep in mind that a dog does not have to display all of these behaviors to be in a dominant frame of mind. Sometimes an alpha dog will only display a few of the behaviors at random times, depending on what the dog decides it feels like doing at any given moment. Smarter dogs tend to challenge the pack order more than dogs of average or below-average intelligence.

Headstrong and willful
Pushing a toy into you or pawing in order to get you to play with them
Nudging you to be petted
Sitting in high places, looking down on everything
Guarding a human from others approaching. People like to call it “protecting” but it's actually “claiming”—dog owns you.
Barking or whining at humans which many owners consider "talking" (without a command to do so).
High-pitched screams in protest of something dog does not wish to do.
Jumping or putting their paws on humans (without a command to do so).
Persistence about being on a particular piece of furniture when asked to stay off (dog owns it)
Persistence about going in and out of doorways before humans
Persistence about walking in front of humans while on a lead
Persistence about getting through the doorway first
Refusing to walk on a lead (excludes untrained puppies, dogs with injuries or illnesses)
Nipping at people's heels when they are leaving (dog did not give permission to leave)
Not listening to known commands
Dislikes people touching their food
Standing proud on a human lap
Persistence about being on top, be it a lap or stepping on your foot
Persistence about where they sleep, i.e. on your pillow
Annoyance if disturbed while sleeping
Likes to sleep on top of their humans
Licking (giving kisses) in a determined and focused manner
Carrying themselves with a proud gait, head held high
Not liking to be left alone and getting overly excited upon the human’s return
(Underlines added). Those dogs demonstrated all the underlined traits. And, as anyone who has experience with dogs knows, the behavior is more likely to escalate when more than one dog involved. It is really not much different than a bunch of kids teasing and taunting another--it may seem "playful," even be characterized as "playful," but can escalate quickly to something more violent. It is also telling that the officer yelled and actually kicked at one of the dogs and it did not back down. If it had been a child instead of a police officer, those dogs would have had the kid knocked down to the ground, and probably bitten the child if he had resisted.

Second, the owner obviously had no interest in the dogs' welfare. The officer was yelling, the dogs were barking, one is shot, and the guy still doesn't investigate! What was he doing? Flushing his meth down the toilet? Also, Filer is a small farming town. The neighborhood looks to be fairly new, which means it is at or near the edge of town. I would be willing to bet that the house was no more than 300 yards from farmland or range land. Stray dogs like that, in a small farming community, get into the habit of killing livestock--chickens, rabbits, calves, sheep, etc. With an owner that negligent, I would not be surprised if he let his dogs "wander" at night.

Now, could the officer had done something different? Maybe. But he'd already yelled at the dogs and kicked one of them. They obviously weren't going to be deterred. And in a choice between a 90 cent bullet versus a $25 canister of pepper spray for deterring the dog...? Well, let me put it this way--the dog wasn't worth $25.

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