"Police officer shot after aiming stun gun at dog" is the headline from a tragic story that occurred in eastern Pennsylvania in August, 2011. It's one topic that I, as a writer on dogs shot by police, am very surprised hasn't been a recurring headline.
This particular event occurred in eastern Pennsylvania when Freemansburg Police Officer Robert Lasso responded to a domestic call on 46-year-old George Hitcho Jr. Hitcho had a long record of being a troublemaker, both to the police and to people who lived in his neighborhood.
Hitcho had ordered the officer to leave his property unless he had a search warrant. Police reports show the homeowner as being belligerent towards Lasso, and Lasso called for backup. Police Chief George Bruenio arrived a short time later and instructed Lasso to kill the two dogs belonging to Hitcho. The dogs were reported on court records as "attacking" when Lasso pulled out his stun gun and aimed at the two dogs. The dog owner then pulled out a shotgun, shooting Officer Lasso in the face.
Court documents quote Hitcho as saying 'He tried to kill my dogs and pointed a gun in my face. I do not care if you a cop or not ...Unbelievable."
Officer Lasso, a married father with two children, was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital. A processional was held by the community as his body was moved from the hospital to the funeral home and flags were ordered to be flown at half-staff at the Capitol and Northampton County by then Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
This is the scenario the Facebook page Dogs Shot By Police are trying to deter from repeating itself. Almost every day in this country, an innocent dog is shot to death by local police. Some of these dogs may have been a bit dangerous, but most are not. Not only is this page trying to educate dog lovers of the dangers their dogs face, it also praises police officers who perform a good dog deed while on duty. Petitions to hold law enforcement accountable, as well as legal options for the owners are also discussed.
I imagine police personnel monitor the page almost as much as those with a general interest in the subject. This is the primary reason for this article. To warn police officers everywhere that their lives are in danger anytime they shoot an innocent dog.
Eventually another family dog owner whose dog is threatened is going to snap. And it's not likely to be a dangerous person who kills another police officer for attempting to or for killing a family dog. I've done many articles now on innocent dogs being shot by police. These dog parents aren't hardened criminals. They're average citizens who were abused by the very system put in place to protect them. Many times they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I'd like to personally commend these owners for not attacking the officer. I'm not ashamed to admit I'd go absolutely berserk crazy should anyone try to harm my dog. I'd even go so far as to say it wouldn't matter if that person wore a badge. I'd more than likely be killed because of my actions. Call it a "mother's instinct" mentality, but I consider my dogs as family members, and I'd do anything to protect them. I feel sure most of the readers who follow these dog shooting cases understand where I'm coming from.
I consider myself as a normal dog lover. I'm mentally balanced (well, unless someone is disrespecting an animal), and it takes a lot to anger me. But what about the dog owner's out there with an attitude problem toward police officers? Or with a bad attitude in general. It's likely each of us know at least one person who explodes over the least little problem. How likely is someone fitting that criteria to shoot an officer either before or after the family dog is killed by that officer?
Let's also take a look at the statistics for the mentally ill in the U.S. According to the National Institute of Mental Health on a report made in 2004, mental illness affects 26.2 percent of Americans age 18 and older. That's about a quarter of the population or 57.7 million people. A more recent report done in 2012 by ABC news based on 2010 statistics reported 20% of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, with only 60% seeking treatment. Forty-two percent of those shot by police had a mental illness. Chances are if you're not mentally ill, someone in your immediate family is.
Can you imagine how easily a person with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) could mistake even a harmless situation involving their dog as a threat? Regardless of whether an officer plans to kill the family dog during time spent on the dogs territory, that doesn't mean the owner won't misread the officer's intent and retaliate.
I recently did an article where Law Enforcement Today did an online article cautioning police officers on the consequences of killing the family dog. Most of the article dealt with legal responsibilities and the chance of being sued should a family dog be shot or killed. I believe police officers also additional training on the very real danger of a dog owner shooting the officer in the heat of passion.
I believe that while no innocent dogs should be shot to death on their own property, no police officers should have to die either.
Readers, do you think you'd mentally snap in a situation where your dogs life were in danger? Would you attack anyone, even a police officer trying to harm your pet? I'm curious.