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Police Officer Shoots Dog, Prompts Protests

Kiki the pit bull shot by police. Photo by Breanna Kerr.
Kiki the pit bull shot by police. Photo by Breanna Kerr.

In Springfield on Tuesday, Aug. 12, a dog named Kiki was shot in the head by a Springfield police officer responding to what police say was a vicious dog call. Such shootings have happened all over the country — in July, a police officer in Idaho shot a Labrador through the glass window of a van it was sitting in. The window was partially open and the officer thought it was lunging at him. 

Local animal advocates didn’t think such a shooting could happen in Lane County. Now that it has, they want to ensure family pets are not shot and that police make an effort to avoid firing guns in local neighborhoods.

Although the situations vary, along with breed and police officer repercussions, a few facts remain constant: Dog shootings that happen all over the country are in residential neighborhoods, generally involve large dogs and have witness statements that contradict the official police report, challenging the meaning of “threatening” and “aggressive.” 

According to the Springfield Police Department, two people called in at around 7 pm to report a pit bull on the loose. After an officer arrived on the scene and saw the barking dog on the sidewalk, he tried to contact the owners by going to the house that bystanders had pointed out. The police department says this was when the dog became aggressive and came at the officer, charging at the retreating officer and lunging. The officer shot her in the face. Kiki survived. 

“Two feet away from the animal with a 40 caliber gun? She shouldn’t be here right now. The way he shot her, he was aiming to kill her,” says Kiki’s owner Breonna Kerr, who may receive a citation from the city of Springfield because the dog got out of her yard. Kerr says that the police response alarmed neighbors who were outside at the time. “They’re upset that the dog was shot in the head, but they’re also upset that a cop would use such excessive force with a gun in a residential neighborhood with kids present.”

No animal control officers were available at the time of the shooting, and multiple witnesses contradict the official police statement, according to TV station KEZI and Kerr, saying Kiki was only barking and not acting aggressively.

A protest held by Springfield citizens outside the police department on Aug. 14 supported Kiki and her owner, Kerr, as well as pit bulls as a misrepresented breed.

“We’d like to see more education and less full-force gun power to stop the dog,” says Darla Waldrip, who attended the protest and works with dogs locally through her business, Connecting with K9s. “A lot of dogs that have been shot have been kill shots straight to the head. They haven’t been shots to the shoulder or something to deter the dog; they’re wanting to stop the dog permanently.” 

Waldrip, Kerr and other animal advocates call for police training on how to deal with domesticated dogs using nonlethal methods like catchpoles, pepper spray or Tasers. In Roseburg, the Douglas County Low-Cost Veterinary Services provided care for a dog shot by Myrtle Creek police last month. The group launched a campaign called “Don’t Shoot” to address the problem of police officers shooting pets rather than using nonlethal control.

Springfield Chief of Police Tim Doney says he supports his officer’s actions and the department is interested in revamping its training, including animal control and police interaction with domesticated animals.

The bullet went through Kiki’s left temple, where it became lodged into her left shoulder, and will require a $2,000 surgery to remove it. To make a tax-deductible donation, contact Save the Pets at savethepets.net. For more on “Don’t Shoot” go to http://wkly.ws/1sy.