Paws up, don’t shoot!

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These days, much is made about fatal or near-fatal encounters between police officers and civilians — and rightly so. However, there are other stories that don’t get as much publicity. These are the stories about the lethal or near-lethal encounters between police officers and “dangerous” dogs.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Most — but not all — of these encounters tend to occur when the officer is on or approaching someone’s property.  Sadly, these stories usually end badly — for the dogs.

For example, as reported by Red Alert Politics, a Minnesota police officer recently shot two family pets, both of which are also emotional support animals.  The officer allegedly shot one of the dogs, a Staffordshire terrier, in the face, causing serious injuries.

“Jennifer LeMay, the dogs’ owner, released security footage of the shooting. The video shows an officer climbing over a seven-foot tall fence and entering the yard housing two Staffordshire terriers,” according to media accounts.

“The officer backpedaled and drew his gun as Circo ran towards him. The dog stopped about five feet in front of the man, then, wagging his tail, slowly approached the officer.  The officer shot the first dog in the face, which fell and fled, and then shot multiple times at the second dog, Rocko, which briefly ran into the camera footage.”

Police claim the dog “charged” at the officer, prompting the use of force.

LeMay emphatically refutes that claim, however.

“He was wagging his tail,” LeMay said about Ciroc. “My dog wasn’t even moving, lunging toward him or anything.”

“My dogs were doing their job on my property,” she continued. “We have a right to be safe in our yard.”

In a Facebook post following the incident, the Minneapolis police chief called for an investigation and said the department “will be implementing updated mandatory training specifically for officers identifying effective tools and tactical strategies with police and dog encounters.”

Meanwhile, the LeMay family is faced with thousands in veterinary bills stemming from the injuries to both dogs. LeMay is reportedly pursuing legal recourse.

But there is hope. Another article tells another story. In this case, the officer did the right thing.

According to the account, “Oklahoma police officer Storm Barrett responded to a call about two angry pit bulls who were running wild in a busy area of El Reno. Luckily, the former dog handler knew exactly what to do. Instead of trying to use force, Officer Barrett got up onto the hood of his cruiser. He pulled a bystander onto the car with him.”
Concerned that the dogs could harm children at a nearby school, Barrett distracted them until backup arrived.
“Both dogs were captured ten minutes later and returned to their owner – who was given a citation for allowing the dogs to get loose,” the report states.

Patrick Stewart story puts renewed emphasis on pit bull plight

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Many years ago, I saw Patrick Stewart star in a one-man theater production of A Christmas Carol. It was phenomenal. He was phenomenal. In fact, the performance moved me to tears…

And while that performance left no doubt that he is a fantastic actor, a recent news article left me with no doubt that he is much more. He is a fantastic human being.

Speaking as someone whose interactions with professional athletes made me cynical extremely cynical about celebrities, that’s saying a lot.

A man and his dog

The story to which I’m referring is the one about Stewart and Ginger. Ginger is a dog that Stewart and his wife are fostering. But she’s not just any dog. She’s a pit bull. And she’s clearly wormed her way into the actor’s heart.

As he tells the media: “I find that my relationship to the world and to the news every day in the papers and on the television has been changed by Ginger, because she has brought such a quality of patience and tolerance and fun into our lives, that it has, in a very short space of time, shifted my sense of where our world might be going. I literally find myself more optimistic than I was, and there is only Ginger to account for this. It is the impact of sharing my life for only seven or eight days with Ginger.”

Sadly, Stewart and his wife can’t adopt Ginger because U.K. laws make it all but impossible to bring her back there when they go home.

But what’s even more unsettling is the public reaction to the story.

Mixed reviews

There are few animals on the planet more polarizing than pit bulls. A lot of people love them, — no matter what. And a lot of people hate them — no matter what.

The story about Stewart and Ginger generated plenty of comments from people in both camps. The pro-pit bull people said Stewart’s relationship with Ginger just goes to show that these dogs are loyal, loving, and misunderstood. The anti-pit bull people said it doesn’t matter. As far as they’re concerned, all pit bulls are unpredictable, dangerous, killers.

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Personally I love pit bulls. For the most part, I think they’re great dogs. But they’re also big, strong, dogs. So I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable having one in a household with small children or the elderly. I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable having one in a household with an inexperienced owner, either. In my opinion, these aren’t necessarily the best dogs for beginners.

All of that being stated, I’m not a big fan of so-called breed legislation. I think it’s overkill.

All we really need to do to help pit bulls is to actively promote responsible pet ownership and forums for honest, open dialogue without fear of recrimination, without name-calling and without hateful rhetoric.

It’s not asking a lot — but sadly it seems it’s asking too much.

A happy ending for Cranberry the pit bull-mix

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Every so often, I come across a story that makes me want to put my fist through the wall, or kick someone’s butt, or both. This was one of them. But at least it seems to have a happy ending.

A heartbreaking story…

Back in November, a Philadelphia cop allegedly decided he didn’t want his dog any more. So he allegedly got rid of her.

According to published reports, he just threw her away. Literally. Luckily, a Good Samaritan found her in the trash bag in a park where she was allegedly abandoned.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

“The Good Samaritan and her dog came upon a garbage bag and as they got closer found a dog’s head was visible. The Good Samaritan called the PSPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement team who sent two officers to the scene to rescue the dog and bring it back to the shelter to receive the medical care it needed,” the Pennsylvania SPCA said in a March 23 press release.

Judging by the picture, her rescuers intervened in the nick of time…

With a happy ending

As Cranberry recovered from her ordeal, authorities tried to figure out exactly how she ended up in such a horrible predicament. And their efforts paid off.

Last week,  Michael Long, a Philadelphia police officer, was arrested on several charges including two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

“This arrest today is the culmination of an investigation conducted by our officers and the Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs Unit,” said Nicole Wilson Director of Humane Law Enforcement. “We look forward to the opportunity to see justice through the courts in this matter.”

Regardless of the outcome, it also looks like Long will lose his job since he has reportedly been “suspended with intent to dismiss.”

Most importantly, Cranberry got adopted and has been living with her new family since December.

Pit bull puppy comes to the rescue in Brooklyn atatck

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As a volunteer at a local animal shelter, I’ve seen my share of mistreated and unwanted pit bulls. And it’s heartbreaking. For the most part, these are wonderful, affectionate dogs in desperate need of loving homes.

They get a bad wrap — and they don’t deserve it.

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

If you don’t believe me, just wait until you hear this story about an heroic pit bull puppy. According to various media accounts, Apollo, a five-month-old pit bull, was out for a walk with his master’s girlfriend when he came to her rescue.

As the New York Post reports, Maya Fairweather, 18, decided to take Apollo for a walk in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, N.Y., at approximately 10 p.m. Monday. She had just turned the puppy loose in a neighborhood park when an unknown man allegedly attacked her.

“I felt someone pull my headphones,” Fairweather told the Post. “I thought it was my boyfriend grabbing me, so I turned around and smiled — but it wasn’t my boyfriend.”

As the alleged assailant knocked her to the ground and tried to remove her pants, Apollo intervened. Showing remarkable bravery, tenacity and loyalty, the puppy bit the man and held on until Fairweather could get away.

“He was protective,” Fairweather said, referring to Apollo. “I think it would’ve been a lot worse. I wouldn’t have been so lucky.”

Fortunately, Apollo also emerged from the incident unscathed.

Police are now looking for the suspect in the case — and with all of the publicity it has generated, it is unlikely he will remain at large for long.

And with all of the fuss over Apollo’s heroism, it’s unlikely anyone will mess with his master or Fairweather again. If nothing else, Apollo can always lick someone to death, she said.

“He is a sweet dog. I never thought he would bite anyone. He never bit anyone before. He’s usually very friendly and just jumps on everyone,” she told the Post.

Police pit bulls — now that’s awesome

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There’s no doubt about it. Pit bulls get a really bad rap.

Some people say there’s a good reason for all of the bad press. But personally, I love pit bulls. I think they’re awesome dogs.

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

So I was really happy and really excited when I came across this article about some pit bulls that not only found new homes, but also got new jobs. First, there’s Kiah. She’s “the first-ever pit bull K9 officer in the state of New York.”

As author Laura Goldman explains, “Kiah joined the Poughkeepsie Police Department after being rescued from a Texas shelter, where she’d ended up after her owner was arrested for animal cruelty.”

From what I understand, the department got her for free after a San Antonio, Texas-based business that specializes in training K9s teamed up with a New York-based organization devoted to saving pit bulls.

Generally speaking, law enforcement agencies have two options when it comes to their K9 programs. They either budget a small fortune for acquisition and training or they pursue other funding sources.  So by working together to send Kiah to Poughkeepsie, the Texas business and New York pit bull advocacy group saved the Poughkeepsie PD a lot of money. More importantly, they ensured that Kiah got a new home and a good job.

And clearly Kiah is a natural when it comes to police work and public relations.

“When they’re not at their jobs, Kiah and her partner, Officer Justin Bruzgul, visit schools and conferences to educate people about the importance of animal rescue,” Goldman explains. “Kiah is also a pit bull ambassador, showing that any dog breed can have amazing underlying potential.”

While Kiah was the first of her breed to become a K9 in New York, she is not alone. Law enforcement agencies across the country are welcoming rescued pit bulls to their ranks.

You can read more about K9 Wilson, K9 Mollie, K9 Libby, and K9 Ruby, here.

This time a pit bull was the victim

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Every once in a while, I come across a story that makes me cry. This week I found two.

A Real Tear-Jerker

The first one was an article I found on To sum it up, the story is about a man who was afraid of pit bulls — and was scared to death of what his wife’s pit bull-mix might do to their newborn baby. As it turned out, the pit bull-Lab cross loved the little girl. As they grew up together, the bond between the girl and her dog got even stronger.

But one day, everything went horribly wrong. The man, Greg Heynen, claims some neighborhood children poisoned Zack — the pit bull-cross who faithfully followed his daughter to bed every night. Zack died and for the first time, Greg’s daughter didn’t have her faithful companion by her side as she climbed the stairs at bedtime.

That’s when Greg’s own dog, Sam, stepped in. Somehow sensing the little girl’s distress, Sam escorted the little girl upstairs that night — and continued the tradition until his death six years later.

Needless to say, a lot of people commented on this story. Some of them said it made them cry. Others expressed outrage that children killed Zack. One even said that they should be poisoned as well. Others said they should be thrown in jail. Most agreed they should be punished in some way.

I agree. If these children deliberately poisoned Zack, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. If permitted under state law, I would charge and try them as adults. Not only did they (allegedly) kill an innocent animal — they robbed a little girl of the rest of her childhood with her best friend. They robbed the Heynen family of a loyal and loving pet.

More importantly, if this was a deliberate act, these children demonstrated the depraved indifference characteristic of hard-core criminals. This is no exaggeration. Scientific studies provide irrefutable proof that children capable of harming animals can and sometimes do grow up to become serial killers.

Leo’s Story

The other story is one that hits closer to home. In fact, it’s about one of the dogs at the animal shelter where I have volunteered for almost three years.

Take me home! A dog up for adoption and an Adopt-a-Dog volunteer. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
An Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with a dog up for adoption at the annual Puttin’ on the Dog show in Greenwich last September. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

At this point, Leo, another pit bull-mix, has been at the shelter almost as long as I have. He came to Adopt-A-Dog in Armonk, N.Y., after a Good Samaritan spotted him by the side of a busy highway and rescued him in the spring of 2014.

He’s such an awesome dog that everyone at the shelter thought a family would adopt him pretty quickly. But a couple of things seemed to work against him from the beginning. For one thing, he will do best in a home with older teenagers. Secondly, he will be happiest in a household without any other pets.

The good news is that he’s thrived in the shelter’s enrichment and training program. He loves agility and he loves to swim, so he’d be a perfect companion for someone who needs a training partner!

You can learn more about Leo by clicking on the “What’s up at Adopt-A-Dog?” link in the sidebar here at tomorrow. You can also visit his profile page on the shelter’s website.

Finally, if you live in the New York metropolitan area and are interested in learning more about Adopt-A-Dog, you can also visit the shelter during our open house and adoption event on Saturday, April 23. The event, at 23 Cox Avenue in Armonk, N.Y., will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there!