The Associated Press reported this afternoon that the owner of a dog who was fatally shot by a police officer plans to file a lawsuit against the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Police Department. The dog, named Arfie, was in his own vehicle and was described by the officer as a "vicious pit bull." Arfie was actually a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever.
According to Craig Jones of Colorado, he hired an attorney on Thursday, July 10 for a potential lawsuit. The Coeur d'Alene police reported that an officer had responded on Wednesday to a report of a suspicious van in the downtown area. The police officer shot the dog with one round in the chest when it "lunged from the driver's side window."
Jones, who had gone into a coffee shop, had left his vehicle in the shade with the window rolled halfway down and had no indication of what was transpiring outside.
"I didn't even know if he was still alive. They took [Arfie] and left me a note, a card, on my windshield. No police officer in sight," Jones stated.
"This guy just wounded me so deeply. This will never go away. This was my best friend."
Jones, who is originally from Coeur d'Alene but now lives in Colorado, was in town because his mother recently died.
"There's no way I can just return to Colorado without my dog," Jones said.
"I was planning on moving back up here actually and was just going to go back to get my stuff. But something like this is such a catastrophic thing in my life that I don't know where I can go to escape it. There's going to be a cloud over my head for a long time."
According to Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Ron Clark, animal control officers originally identified Arfie as a pit bull. A veterinarian later confirmed that Arfie was a black Labrador retriever.
Police Chief Clark stated in a news release that the police department has been receiving threatening calls and emails regarding this shooting. As a result, Clark stated that the name of the officer will not be released - but the officer has not been placed on administrative leave at this time.
"We understand the grief the family is dealing with due to the loss of their pet. We also understand the distress this has caused for citizens," Clark said in a statement.
He added: "The officer who shot the dog is also distraught over this incident."
Coeur d'Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer said that the city would conduct a review of the shooting. They will release these findings to the public.
“This still isn’t even real to me,” stated Jones. According to Jones, two-year-old Arfie didn't have a mean bone in his body.
“If my dog is barking and wondering who's peering through the windows, he doesn't care if you're a cop, an attorney, or President Bush. He doesn't know any difference,” Jones stated.
Police shootings of dogs have been in the news frequently - and this is the second shooting of a dog by a police officer in Idaho this year alone that has resulted in a possible lawsuit.
In Feb., seven-year-old Hooch, also a Labrador retriever, was fatally shot by a Southern Idaho officer responding to a call that dogs were running loose. The dog shooting was filmed, and after that footage was released, animal advocates demanded that the officer be fired. Hooch's owners filed a notice to sue the city, the officer, and the police force. The notice seeks $150,000 in damages, plus court costs.
In 2010, a Des Moines, Wash. dog named Rosie was fatally shot by the police. Rosie's owners, Charles and Deirdre Wright, filed a civil suit with the city which totaled $600,000 and was filed on the two-year anniversary of Rosie's death.
Rosie had escaped from her yard in Nov. 2010. Officers were called to the scene after someone reported a loose dog. The officers, who claimed that Rosie was behaving aggressively, tazed the frightened dog. A chase ensued and Rosie ran to an adjoining yard. The police officers shot her multiple times and she succumbed to her injuries just outside of her home.
The entire incident was recorded, including one of the officers exclaiming, "Nice!" after the first shot hit Rosie. Her family successfully sued the police department, with Rosie's owners agreeing to a settlement of $51,000 plus attorney's fees.
Other dog shootings have also hit the news recently. In Jan. of this year, a Chesapeake Bay retriever was shot by police in Maryland, which has had several other police shootings of family pets in recent years. In Aug. 2010, a federal police officer fatally shot a Siberian husky. In July 2008, a SWAT team member shot and killed two Labrador retrievers during a home search after mistakenly believing that the homeowner was involved in drug trafficking.
Recently, a Weimaraner named Geist was shot in Salt Lake City, Utah - and there has been a tremendous outcry over his death. The dog, who was shot on June 18, was in his own fenced yard at the time.
Updates to this story will be posted as they occur.
If you would like to continue receiving important information and news related to pets in Seattle and beyond, please click on the "Subscribe" button at the top of this column.