The Augusta Chronicle rationalizes a cop's wanton shooting of a family pet, in the family's own yard, thus:
Your dog may be the sweetest, cuddliest creature on the planet. He may never have harmed a flea. He might even be the kind that would lead a burglar to the family's fine silverware.
But until dogs learn to bark in the king's English, how can any of us know what your dog is capable of doing?
A policeman may be the most conscientious, honest man in the city. He may never have fired a shot off the practice range. He might even be the kind that helps cats down from trees, and returns lost children to their parents.
But until we begin firing cops who wantonly slay friendly dogs because they lack the common sense to distinguish threatening behavior from ordinary canine enthusiasm, how can any of us know whether that cop is a brutal thug?
The answer, of course, is that we can't. So when an unleashed dog is running at a stranger on the street, even if the little fellow is bounding happily toward a new friend, that stranger has to assume the worst: that the dog will bite. Some dogs will flat-out maul — and, like it or not, some breeds are infamous for it.
The answer to this assertion is that we're discussing a seven year old golden retriever named "Boomer".
A golden retriever is not a vicious or threatening breed. The policeman, we're led to believe, is hired and selected for his good moral character and sound judgment. His good moral character and sound judgment are supplemented by the best training our local, state, and federal governments can provide.
One would hope that training would include a measure of instruction in the art of forbearance. Deliberation before shooting. Because only a moron, or a hothead, or a sadist, would shoot a golden retriever in its own yard. Morons, hotheads, and sadists have no business carrying guns for the state. They should be employed in jobs where they can do little harm, such as writing editorials for third-tier city newspapers like the Augusta Chronicle.
In addition, sometimes a dog will do things its owner might never have seen or dreamed that it might — especially if another animal is involved. Regardless, a stranger doesn't know what is or isn't characteristic of a particular animal.
In addition, sometimes a cop will do things that citizens might never have dreamed that he might — especially one who's shown such poor judgment as the officer we're actually discussing. He might shoot a taxpayer for carrying a water hose nozzle. Regardless, it's safest to put down an officer so vicious as to shoot a golden retriever in its own yard, when it's the officer who's trespassing.
Or at least to take away his gun and badge.
So, occasionally the worst does happen. This past weekend, Boomer, a golden retriever owned by a Clayton County family, sprung off a porch and galloped, in full throat, toward a police officer who was responding to a call on foot. Tragically, the officer felt the need to shoot the animal, which died.
We simply don't know if the officer was justified or trigger-happy. The dog was still on the family lot, which reportedly had an electric fence. The fence, however, was not advertised, and the officer might not have had time to notice even if it had been.
Actually we do know. We know that the officer was trigger-happy. We know this because we know that officers are trained to shoot dogs first, and to ask questions later.
An ordinary citizen, in Georgia, has the right to carry a firearm. An ordinary citizen who went around shooting his neighbors' dogs on the neighbors' property would be locked away as menace and a maniac. He would be denounced in the pages of the Augusta Chronicle. But give that ordinary citizen a badge, and the Augusta Chronicle will bend over backwards to give him the benefit of every doubt, and to defend him. Because ordinary citizens must never know that, sadly, we fill the ranks of our police with the mediocre, the stupid, and the mean.
You also wonder if a non-fatal response, such as pepper spray or Mace, might have done the trick.
Actually, I wonder why the Augusta Chronicle waited seven paragraphs to ask this question.
What is clear is that the officer felt threatened — and no matter what the family says about Boomer's gentility, the officer had no way of being familiar with it.
What isn't clear is whether the officer was justified in feeling threatened, and whether he overreacted to the perceived threat. And no matter what the Augusta Chronicle says about the officer's internal thought process, I've read too many stories about unjustified shootings of dogs by the police to take the Augusta Chronicle's word for it.
The lesson is clear: Dog owners have an absolute, air-tight and no-questions-asked responsibility to control their pets at all times.
Yet, so many don't do it.
Walkers, joggers and bicyclists, as well as delivery men and other workers, are wholly unimpressed with your dog's résumé. All they want is to be left alone, unencumbered by even the implied threat of a fang in an extremity.
Walkers, joggers and bicyclists, unlike the police, typically make accommodations for strange dogs. They cross the street, or they keep walking. They don't pull out a pistol and start firing. Especially, as in this case, in the direction of a house that contains children. As this officer did.
And, oh by the way, they have a rock-solid legal right to that expectation: Augusta law says, for instance: "It shall be unlawful for any animal to be out of control and/or unattended off the premises of its owner, and/or upon the premises of another person without the permission of such other person."
Boomer was on his property when he was killed. And maybe the officer jumped the gun. But who's to say whether the dog wouldn't have jumped the fence?
And who's to say whether the officer won't start firing randomly at strangers in the mall? According to Boomer's owners, he'd never bitten anyone. We know that this officer will begin shooting at the slightest provocation.
Keeping your dog restrained on public property is the law.
Doing it on private property isn't a bad idea either.
Firing hotheaded, trigger-happy policemen is a good idea too. Sadly, it isn't the law.