Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Troubling Times

Alameda is a relatively small island city, 5 minutes away from Oakland, California, and 15 minutes (on a good day) from San Francisco. We have a fairly large police force and a pretty low crime rate. In the last year, I have seen a couple of things that really bother me. In May of 2009, a police dog died after being left in a private vehicle by his police officer handler for about 3 ¼ hours while the police officer attended a training session. The dog subsequently died of heat stroke. Less than 2 weeks ago on December 17, 2009, Billy, a 3-year veteran police dog, was shot and killed by a female police officer because the dog attacked her while she was investigating a burglary situation. Billy could not be called off by his handler who was also present at the crime scene.

At the beginning of this year, the Alameda Police Department had a total of four K-9 units. Now two of those K-9 unit dogs are dead; one the victim of a police officer's poor judgment, the other the victim of three gunshot wounds. I'm somewhat mystified about what happened in the second case. The police handler was unable to call the dog off from attacking a another police officer. Does this mean, that a police dog walking down the street is akin to an unstable loaded weapon and a high level threat to any person or bystander?

This whole matter gives me a bad feeling about the K-9 Units in general. I think it's fairly apparent that some of the officers have not been trained in some basic animal health issues and some of the dogs may not have the appropriate training either. Any dog owner or handler must realize that to leave a dog in an enclosed car is never a good idea. Cars heat up and the dog has no way to open the window or door to get relief from the heat. The longest we ever leave our dogs in the car is if we park and run to the mailbox at the corner, or over to toss the video's in the slot at Blockbuster. That's a 2 minute maximum of time. And even in those instances, you must be aware that running into a neighbor or friend and chatting is putting your dog at risk.

These police dogs are not pets, although they do live with their handlers and share his or her home life. If a police officer and handler cannot “call off” his dog's attack, this is a very serious matter for all concerned. Unfortunately, this is not a completely isolated occurrence, but one that happens from time to time. I believe that there have been several unprovoked attacks by working police dogs in the last year in the United States, and more worldwide. Perhaps one solution might be to better use the dogs in situations where the risk factor of serious attack on innocent bystanders is drastically reduced. Bomb sniffing dogs and drug dogs don't seem to have the same aggression levels or attack training as the dogs on patrol in the field. All of these dogs need to be utilized to their best capacity because they are expensive, intelligent, brave and competent animals.


  1. When a dog acts out like that it's always a failing on the part of whoever trained him. These dogs put their lives on the line and deserve better care and training. It saddens me that the dog had to be killed. I think you should edit this down a bit and send it into your newspaper for the opinion section. It's an important issue.

  2. Thanks Jayne. It is very distressing to me that these two magnificent animals have been destroyed.