The city of Coeur d’Alene is still devastated and angry about the shooting of Arfee, a 2-year-old black Labrador. We caught up with Craig Jones, Arfee’s grieving owner, in this week’s issue.
But Coeur d’Alene is hardly alone. The same tale has played out in city after city.
"You're kicking down doors, barging in with guns, and when animals do what animals do, they become collateral damage,” former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper told libertarian writer Radley Balko in a 2009 Daily Beast article on dog shootings. “Too many officers have gotten rather callous about it, I'm afraid."
Arfee's death isn't even the first cop-shoots-black-Lab outrage in Idaho this year. In February, in Filer, Idaho, dashboard cam footage shows an officer kicking a barking black Lab named “Hooch,” raising his gun, and then shooting it. In the footage, the dog can be heard, yelping and whimpering, wounded. To make the story somehow even worse, the owner has Parkinson’s disease, is confined to a wheelchair and was holding a birthday party for his 9-year-old son when Hooch was shot.
That incident made national news and catalyzed Boise County resident Edith Williams to create the Idahoans for Non-Lethal Canine Encounter Training group on Facebook. She's pushing for all law-enforcement officers in the state to receive instruction on humane ways to handle aggressive dogs.
Coeur d’Alene has already taken one step in that direction: About a week and a half after the Arfee shooting, Interim Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Ron Clark estimates, he sent out a link to his entire department, mandating they watch five training videos about how to handle dog shootings non-lethally. The videos cover how to read canine body language, how to distract dogs with food or air horns, and how to use common items, like umbrellas or clipboards, to deflect bite attempts.
Williams has seen the video series.
“They are good,” she says. “But it’s watching TV. In general, it would be better to have the officers, along with the presentation, have hands-on interaction with the trainer, with the dog and with fellow officers. ”
She's thinking of the sort of live training that was recently given to the Filer officers by canine aggression expert Jim Osorio. Of course, even in hindsight, it’s not clear whether additional training could have saved the lives of Arfee or Hooch.
“I don’t think the Arfee shooting would have been prevented with dog training,” Williams says. “I think it was an inexperienced officer who didn’t know what he shot at before he hit it.”
View the videos, at about 10 minutes a piece, and decide for yourself.
1) An Overview: Assessing the situation.
2) Communication With Dogs
3) Tactical Considerations
4) Use of Force Considerations
5) Legal Considerations: Liability, Reporting and Documentation