Hammond Police Are Not Exactly Dog Lovers

Dog Shot

Full disclosure: I am an unrepentant dog-lover. I currently own an 80-pound Doberman Pinscher, and I’ve owned plenty of Dobies and boxers in the past. I’ve grown up with dogs of all shapes and sizes. I know how to communicate with them, and I’ve helped train them from a very early age. I’m not a member of PETA, but I do think animal rights are a joke in this country. My dogs…scratch that, most dogs I’ve known have all been intelligent, emotionally-capable living beings. The law says that dogs are property.

I think the Hammond police are misconstuing the legally-protected notion that dogs are merely property, and I write today to bring attention to it. I am not a cop-hater; I support and appreciate what police officers do for the community, and I tell them every time I get an opportunity. I know a few police officers, and they’re good people…but good people can have bad character…and police officers can have bad character (syllogism, for you logic-buffs out there). When a police officer makes a bad decision, I’m willing to give him or her some of the benefit of the doubt, but there is plenty of evidence to present to prove that police officers can make bad decisions (just as doctors, lawyers, teachers, mechanics, politicians, and many more professionals are capable).

A bigger problem occurs when an entire police department shows bad character. When character flaws and bad decisions are protected, it could enable more unethical behavior collectively. Police officers, as a group, serve the community, and they need to do so honorably to maintain their professional duty to their community. A pattern of unprofessionalism can develop under the auspices of unity, which makes this potentially-departmental problem of animal-disregard more evident. If written policy protects this behavior, I suggest that there are bad policies, which are not written in stone. Sometimes, we should advocate for adjustment of written policy and law when they fail to fulfill their ethical intentions.

I write my blog today in an effort to draw scrutiny to the Hammond Police Department and their potential tendency for dog-abuse. I choose my words carefully, and I am using available research. I attempted to approach some Northwest Indiana police officers about K-9 training, but they have not contacted me for an interview (I am merely a blog writer, not a card-carrying journalist). I have not interviewed any of the officers from the Hammond Police Department. The contents of this blog article use available research, and my opinion is differentiated from this presented evidence. This article is not intended to besmirch the reputation of any one individual within the Hammond Police Department.

First, some background information about Hammond, Indiana, for my national and international readers: Hammond is a suburb of Chicago for all intents and purposes. When you follow the shore of Lake Michigan south from Chicago, Hammond is the first major town in Northwest Indiana you find before travelling to Gary and working your way back up to Michigan City on the Michigan border. Hammond has also become the most populated town in Northwest Indiana, as many South-Siders cross the state border to escape the higher taxes of Chicago. Hammond is also an old college town, as Purdue University-Calumet, my alma-mater, resides there still (despite Mitch Daniels’ best efforts to reduce the school, or perhaps eliminate it). Hammond also suffers from a fair share of racial segregation, impoverished community, and violent crime, as many outlying areas of Chicago do. It is a difficult place to be a police officer, for sure. Hammond is also a community proud of its history, and many good people I’m acquainted with live and work there.

There are three cases that I want to bring to my readers’ attention. The first involves a Hammond police officer investigating a call of burglary in 2012. The residence in question was damaged by fire, and the residents had returned to feed their dog that was still in the garage. The police officer entered the garage while the residents and their dog were within the compartment. The mother dog, having recently birthed puppies, growled at the foreign person and advanced on the officer. The testimony of the officer is that the dog lunged at him as he backed out of the garage, he put his knee up to protect himself, and the dog lunged again. As the residents were attempting to identify themselves, the police officer shot the dog. The dog died later at a veterinarian’s office. The residents testify that the dog was not attempting to bite the officer. Then-Hammond Police Chief, Brian Miller, is quoted as saying, “It’s not the goal of any officer to shoot a dog or a person. No one feels good about it….This is a very regrettable thing.”

The second case has garnered some national attention through internet sources and news media. It involves a Hammond K-9 officer being video-taped as he handles his canine partner in public. The K-9 officer is seen to be lifting his dog several times by the leash; at points of the recording, the dog is dangling by its neck, even twirling around for several seconds. The K-9 officer also uses the end of the leash to whip the flank of the dog several times. The officer was suspended, and an investigation was recently concluded. The choke technique was determined to be within the perusal of the officer’s training; the whipping with the leash was not. Some dog-handling specialists suggest that lifting a dog off its hind legs is not consistent with the choke-off technique, but the department justified this, in conjunction with the whipping, for expediency’s sake. The report determined that “the handler’s technique was not the way he was taught but was not abuse.” A definition of abuse is to mishandle or use wrongly or improperly, so there is a rhetorical, and potentially-legal, contradiction in this statement. Another definition of abuse is to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive manner. Dan Parker, the director of law-enforcement operations at Vohne Liche Kennels, where the training of this K-9 officer is assumed to have taken place, wrote, “The dog was not abused or harmed in any way.” I wanted to interview other K-9 officers to ask if this was consistent with their training, but they understandably abstained. My own experience with training dogs has proven that the choke-off method is inferior to strong voice command, and it was my understanding that police K-9 officers were taught that as well. This Ohio State K-9 College agrees with me.

The third case happened recently, and there are limited facts available because of the currency of the incident. My first indication of this was through Facebook. The imbedded picture of a dog with a bullet hole through its snout was posted by a friend, along with the testimony of the dog’s owner:

My dog was shot in the face today by an officer from the Hammond Indiana police department. Lilly was on the side of our house with my two boys ages 7, and 11 years old, my daughter 16 yrs old and my baby boy 11 months were standing 15 feet behind her. We have a sign and flags in our front yard warning everyone that Lilly is on the premises and is confined by an electric fence, there are also flags marking up to what point she can reach (middle of our front yard). The police officer decided to jump out of his vehicle, take out his gun and shoot my dog in the face in front of all my kids and neighbors. He never said a word before he shot her! Our family needs justice, hammond police like to beat up there K9 police dogs and now it seems they like to shoot the residents pets in front of children! What would of happened if he would of missed and hit my kids instead? Something has to be done… Someone please help us get this out, he completely didn’t care for my kids safety or well being.

These are some of the most recent local news reports concerning this incident (here and here). This case seems to share similarities to the first case from 2012, except it involves an electric fence with appropriately-placed signs. A police officer was investigating a call of a loose pit bull. When the police officer set foot on the property, a dog charged at the officer. In this case, the police officer ran back to his car. The testimony of the officer is that the dog charged past the confines of the electric fence, and the officer was compelled to draw his weapon and fired a round into the dog’s face. This also happened before the officer had an opportunity to interview the homeowners. The officer’s testimony conflicts with the dog-owner’s assertion that he jumped from his car and shot the dog without provocation. Early reports from Hammond police officials and the mayor are that the officer was justified in the shooting. The news reports do not have any details about the female resident’s allegations of her children being in the vicinity of the shooting. There is also no verification that the dog was, in fact, a pit bull. Hammond Police Chief John Doughty is quoted as saying the officer in question had “no other choice but to shoot.”

These are the facts I have found, with very little personal commentary. My opinion: I do not agree with the accepted policy that police officers have “no other choice but to shoot” when a dog lunges at them. I’ve had dogs lunge at me, and I’ve been able to restrain large dogs without a handgun and minimal personal injury. I do not agree with the idea that the choke-off method is not abusive, as it does cause harm to a dog and can potentially cause K-9 officers to mishandle their partners in the field. With the third case, I can’t help but worry about the idea of an electric fence. I understand how dog-owners want their dogs to be free of a leash, but it’s an awful thing to see this picture of a dog with a bullet hole in its snout and realize that a leash or actual fence would have prevented the whole dirty incident.

As for the Hammond Police Department, I see a trend of disregard when it comes to the treatment of animals, whether they are residents’ pets or their canine partners. Police officers should not be so quick to draw their firearm to handle what they perceive to be dangerous. This mentality can be harmful not only to animals, but also to human beings. I understand that police officers have to assess threats quickly and handle them appropriately, in order to protect themselves. However, all three of these cases involve unnecessary harm, a staple of professional ethics…all three of these cases could have been avoided if different procedural measures were taken. I would ideally like to see some reassessment of procedures utilized by the Hammond Police Department regarding dogs, since there is evidence indicating a disregard for these living creatures. Furthermore, I know that incidents of police shooting dogs happen frequently across this country. I would also like to see an attitude change, from police officers, politicians, and citizens, when it comes to the right to life of animals that are more than simple property, even to police officers themselves!

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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9 comments

  1. After publishing the article, I reviewed some of the comments found on Facebook regarding the third case. I found the following comment, which I find to be particularly reprehensible. It pretty much sums up the attitude that I would like to see change, but obviously people want to gravitate towards violence. I do not agree.

    imagine if the dog lunged at one of your cop-hating friends loved ones..

    the only mistake that cop made was not following up with 6 more bullets behind the first one.

    pretty simple math

    People = #1
    Animals = #2

    Its the law of the jungle

  2. Upon further reflection on the third case, I refute that the only course of action the police officer could utilize was to draw his weapon. Five alternatives: 1) The police officer testified that he reached his car. He might have entered the vehicle or jumped on top of his vehicle instead of confronting the animal with his weapon. 2) The police officer was investigating a complaint, not an immediate emergency. Instead of entering the premises, the police officer could have hailed the homeowner from his loudspeaker on the car, his car’s sirens, or through the telephone. 3) The police officer could have used other weapons at his disposal instead of a gun, such as mace, tasers, or batons. 4) When a police officer is lunged at by a human being, they are trained to subdue a person without using deadly force…these tactics can also work on an animal. 5) The officer in question approached the house without proper back-up. An additional officer might have prevented the “need” for an officer to draw his sidearm.

    The words “no other choice but to shoot” need qualification. While none of these alternatives are fool-proof, they are wiser than drawing your sidearm, as officers are professionally advised and trained to do so as a last resort.

  3. Hi Scott. Anyone who lives with nonhuman animals knows that they are sentient beings. Nothing justifies cruelty to living creatures. Thanks for sharing this information – heartbreaking as it is 😥

    1. Thank you for your attention, Emy. It’s a shame that it needs to be said, but animals shouldn’t be treated in this manner. I appreciate your blog. Keep fighting the good fight.

  4. That is just an ignorant calculation from an obvious uneducated person. There was absolutely no reason for that animal to have been shot. As someone else said in a comment, the police are trained to use other forces of action before a gun. So I agree with the blogger and the thousands of other supporters who have protested to the lenient punishment the cop received.

    1. What bothers me about some police officers’ actions concerning dogs is that they seem eager to use the gun as the first option. This is obviously not every police officer’s first action, but there do seem to be some officers who use lethal force at the first appearance of an animal. I do wonder how police are trained concerning possibly aggressive animals…

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