By Radley Balko
I've been to many a dog park. I've seen lots of dogs scuffle at those parks. It happens. Most owners pull the dogs apart and, if they can't get along, one or both dogs leave the park. The possibility of someone pulling out a gun and shooting a dog has never really even crossed my mind. But maybe that's because I'm not a cop.
Stunned dog owners and residents of a Severn neighborhood are shocked that authorities won't be charging a federal police officer who shot and killed a Siberian husky Monday night at a community dog park.
Bear-Bear, a brown and white husky that was about 3 years old, was playing in the Quail Run dog park at about 6:30 p.m., running off leash inside the fenced-in area, when the officer and his wife arrived with a German shepherd, who was kept on a leash. When the dogs began to play roughly, the federal officer asked Bear-Bear's guardian, his owner's brother, to call off the dog. But before he could do anything, the officer pulled out a gun and shot Bear-Bear, according to the husky's owner.
Bear-Bear, who belongs to Rachel Rettaliala, died of his injuries a few hours later. County police did not name the federal officer.
The article points out that huskies have a rough style of play, so it's likely that this cop, like plenty of others, mistook non-aggressive behavior for an attack. (Huskies are also an especially gentle, non-aggressive breed.) The fact that the cop had his dog on-leash at an off-leash park is more evidence that he doesn't know much about how dogs behave. That's never a good idea (most parks don't allow it). It invites an altercation.
But that's all really beside the point. I'm certain that if I (or anyone else who isn't a cop) pulled out a gun and shot a dog at a dog park in a residential area, I'd be facing criminal charges. And rightly so. Even if the dogs were fighting, there's no justification for shooting one of them, particularly around other dogs and people. It's reckless, trigger-happy, and dangerous. It's also safe to say that if this had been anyone other than a cop, the local police department would have no qualms about releasing his name to the press.
MORE: Baltimore radio station WBAL interviews Rachel Rettaliata, the owner of the dog, here and here. According to Rettaliata local animal control officials said neither animal had any scratch or bite marks.