Police Kill a Pit Bull in Pembroke Pines Yard
Should a police officer use lethal force to stop one animal that is attacking another animal? It happened in Pembroke Pines, and the case is under review.
BY JENNIFER LEBOVICH
Pembroke Pines police are reviewing the actions of an officer who shot and killed a pit bull terrier that was ''violently mauling'' another dog on private property, police said.
The officer responded to an anonymous complaint Monday about 3 p.m. that several pit bulls were behaving aggressively at a home in the 9700 block of Southwest 16th Court, according to Pembroke Pines police Sgt. John Jacob.
Four pit bulls were inside a 6-foot-high wooden fence. Three were chained and one was running loose, Jacob said. The loose dog was attacking one of the others, ''causing severe injury and distress to the animal,'' Jacob said.
The owner of the house was not home at the time, police said.
The officer, whose name was not released by police, shot and killed the attacking dog from outside of the fence because it was not safe for the officer to go inside the fence, Jacob said. The pit bull that was mauled died from the attack, he said.
''There is no specific policy on whether or not we can use force against one animal to try and save another animal,'' Jacob said.
The incident is under investigation, and it is also under police administrative review, he said.
An officer with Broward County Animal Care and Regulation Division also went to the home, according to spokeswoman Tarnell Carroll.
The pit bull had already been shot and killed when the animal care officer arrived. The animal control officer wrote the owner, Dionysus Eagle, eight citations for failing to have proper licenses and current rabies vaccinations.
Eagle told Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 on Tuesday that the dogs are ``like family to me.''
The two dead dogs were taken to a Hollywood animal hospital, and the others were left at the home, Carroll said.
Some legal experts said there is no clear-cut case of whether a police officer can shoot one animal to protect another since laws are usually concerned with the life and safety of people.
Though animal cruelty laws are meant to protect pets from their owners, the laws might come into play when one animal attacks another, said Dawn Capp, the director of Coalition of Human Advocates for K9s and Owners.
If an officer sees two dogs starving, animal cruelty laws allow the officer to enter the property, she said. A situation in which one dog is attacking another could be analogous, said Capp, an attorney in Sacramento, Calif.
''If police see an animal chained being attacked, there are animal cruelty laws that would qualify,'' she said. ``I think there is some duty there to try and intervene.''
Capp emphasized the importance of having trained animal control officers to handle potentially dangerous situations involving animals.
In Pembroke Pines, owners can have no more than three dogs, according to the Broward Animal Care and Regulation website. Owning pit bulls is legal in Broward but illegal in Miami-Dade County, according to Miami-Dade County's site.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Pembroke Pines police at 954-431-2225 or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.