Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cop Shoots Five Caged Dogs at California Animal Shelter

A pit bull. Photo: Getty Images.

A Selma, Calif., police sergeant used his department issued weapon last week to shoot and kill five caged pit bulls at a local animal shelter. According to a report by local news outlet KMPH, the dogs had been dropped off by a couple who said they were too aggressive. The police sergeant called a veterinarian to euthanize the animals, but when the veterinarian did not arrive, officers decided to transport the dogs to the vet clinic themselves. When the officers tried to enter the cage, says Selma Police Chief Myron Dyck, the dogs began to attack. ”As soon as they went to open the gate the dogs rushed the gate,” Dyck said “They felt if they opened it up they would be bitten at minimum and if opened all the way they would be knocked down and mauled.” Dyck added that the dogs showed signs of having possibly been used for fighting.

Volunteers at the Selma Animal Shelter, where only six of over 300 dogs were euthanized last year, were horrified at the incident, and were reassured by Dyck that it would not happen again. The shelter was told that the department now plans to use tranquilizers or other means to subdue aggressive dogs that need to be put down.

KMPH’s article on the incident was met with the outrage expected of a story involving animal cruelty. “What a pathetic excuse for ‘journalism.’ This is 110% biased from the police perspective. If a citizen had shot 5 dogs would you have dedicated an entire news piece to showing how justified it was or would you find other people who were outraged by the incident, get reports from the animal shelter, animal rights activists, and other concerned parties?” wrote one reader. A few others urged animal rights activists and shelter volunteers to write to KMPH journalist Erik Rosales to offer up another perspective.

Selma Animal Shelter has caught flak over the matter as well.”I wouldn’t expect donations to a shelter that houses dogs so cops can shoot them. Good luck with that,” reads one woman’s comment on the shelter’s Facebook page, to which the shelter responded by explaining that they had no control over the matter and asking “…do you give up and let them all die? Do you not donate to help the ones that are out there? Us volunteers are not giving up though we wanted to. Because in the end all the dogs will suffer.”

The news report, taken largely from the police chief’s story, makes it appear as though all five dogs were in one cage. However, in response to questions about how such aggressive animals could have been kept in the same cage, the shelter wrote on Facebook, “we had 2 in one kennel and 3 in another,” adding, “the way it should have been handled is one dog per kennel….we are not disputing that they should have been euthed….these dogs we could not trust in a family …..being 1 per kennel they could have been catch poled without the threat of being attacked.” After an onslaught of questions about how the dogs were transported to the shelter in the first place, the shelter finally posted: “We have answered the questions that you all have asked to the best of our knowledge. Yes it makes no sense but if you have questions you should take them up with selma pd themselves.”

The "gay dog" rescued from euthanasia after a Facebook campaign.

While questions surrounding the dogs’ shootings remain, one thing is undisputed: they were headed for death regardless. The police department, the shelter, and, according to the shelter’s statements on Facebook, the dogs’ owners, all intended for the animals to be put down. Pit bulls, due to their reputation and overbreeding, often find themselves abandoned on the street or at shelters. They are the most euthanized breed, and are often put down not due to aggression but due to the difficulty of adopting them out.

In a rare success story this week, a pitbull mix who was brought to a high-kill shelter because his owner thought he was gay, was rescued thanks to a campaign on Facebook. According to the Jackson, Tenn., shelter, the woman brought the dog to the shelter after finding him “hunched over” another male dog. After thousands of comments and shares, a woman named Stephanie Fryn announced that she’d be adopting the dog on the morning of his scheduled execution.

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