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article imageTrigger-Happy Officers Can Kill Your Puppy, But Try the Same and You're a Felon

By Michael Billy     Oct 15, 2007 in Crime
Law enforcement officers are allowed to kill the family pet without consequence, but do so much as threaten a police dog and you could be looking at jail time with a $100,000 bond.
If you happen to kill a police dog that has wandered onto your property then you could be facing a third degree felony.
On September 27, 2007 police officers approached the house of Jennifer Stiernagel. The car parked in her driveway resembled the car that was used in a bank robbery sometime earlier.
Jennifer was alone with her two-year old son, Derek. As she talked to an investigator in the front yard, she noticed a deputy nearby approaching her two dogs. She said Duke, the Basset Hound, was barking, Eddie, the Terrier Lab, was lying in the grass growling.
"The dog was down, he didn't try jumping at him," said Stiernagel, "he didn't do anything, as soon as I turned around, he shot him right in the head."
Derek watched from the front deck 20 feet away.
I ran into the house and grabbed him," said Derek's mother. "I put him in the house and he wouldn't leave me and he was holding onto me and he was crying."
The officer in this case could -- and should -- have acted more responsibly in the situation. Why not ask the mother to take the dogs inside instead of shooting one of them in the head in front of a two-year-old?
The officer received no punishment.
In a similar situation, this time ignoring a "Beware of Dog" sign, Hartford, Connecticut Police Officer John O'Hare shot and killed a St. Bernard in front of the 12-year-old girl it was protecting.
Glen Harris, the dogs owner said, "They didn't knock. They ignored the sign, the dog sees or hears (and) protects my daughter, so he ran toward him -- not growling, not foaming at the mouth, not anything."
O'Hare has also gone unpunished.
For more information on police officers killing family pets check out this excellent Reason Magazine article.
On the other side of the law, Pittsburgh native Kenneth King has been placed in county jail for allegedly yelling at a police dog.
KDKA reports:
Kenneth King, 23, walked by a K-9 police cruiser at a Sunoco station on the North Side shortly after midnight on Saturday and was startled by the dog, which was barking.
Police say King yelled at the dog, “Shut the [expletive] up, and charged with taunting a police animal.
King is being held on a $100,000 straight bond and will be in jail until he has his preliminary hearings in a few days.
Steven E. Vanderhoff has been arrested for shooting and killing a police dog that wandered onto his property. He insists that he did not know it was a police dog. Vanderhoff has been charged with assaulting a police dog and cruelty to animals; the assault charge is a third degree felony.
No charges have been filed against Officer Deeter for failing to confine the dog.
Vanderhoff faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of the assault charge. Cruelty to animals, a second-degree misdemeanor, carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.
When a police dog is killed officers are quick to say that the dog is a fellow officer and should be treated as such. I don't know about you, but my my dog is a member of my family and should therefore be treated like one. If an officer wrongly killed a member of my family I would hope that proper actions were taken against them.
So here are the rules: Do not kill or threaten a police dog no matter what, unless you want to be put in jail. However, if you are an officer, you can recklessly kill the pets of average citizens if they so much as bark at you.
The hypocrisy that the law takes when it come to police dogs is fairly astounding. Is the life of a police dog more valuable than that of a citizens dog? It depends on the perspective you take. As for me, I would never give up the life of my dog for that of a police dog, as his life is more important to me. The laws should not discriminate.
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