A Service Dog Shot Last January and a Puppy Shot This Week. Why Does the NOPD Keep Shooting Dogs?

New Orleans Police Department Vehicle” by danxoneil is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On Saturday night, an NOPD officer shot and killed a four-and-a-half-month-old puppy named Apollo in the Lower Garden District. Two officers had responded to a noise disturbance call, opening the gate of a home on the 1400 block of Felicity Street. The home belonged to Derek Brown and Julie Barecki-Brown, a married couple who had gotten into an argument. “Married couples do that,” Derek Brown explained. “We weren’t drawing guns.” 

The couple had let their two dogs, one the 30-pound puppy named Apollo and the other a 65-pound dog, out into the yard. The NOPD officers said that after opening the gate the dogs “charged” at them. 

Julie Barecki-Brown heard the gate open, and then 3 gunshots went off. Derek Brown explained, “I ran out here, and the puppy was right there, writhing,” he died within minutes. 

“Any way I look at this, I just can’t see a justification of it,” commented Holly Williams of Trampled Rose Rescue and Rehab. “18-weeks-old, he was an unmistakable puppy, rubbery, bouncy, lanky.” 

Apollo had been brought to Williams at Trampled Rose Rescue and Rehab along with his mom and 10 siblings. They were rescued from a backyard breeder who had chained Apollo’s mother to a tree while she was pregnant. “They were born so tiny because the mama was so emaciated that their odds from the get-go weren’t good,” said Williams

However, with the care of Trampled Rose and Rescue, the puppies thrived and were soon ready for adoption. “They were the kind of family that we hope to find each time for rescues,” Williams said about the adoptive family.

Derek and Julie were shocked and depressed by the murder of the puppy they had only had for 2 months. “I feel responsible,” said Derek. “It’s my job to protect that little guy.” 

Police stayed at the residence for 4 hours after the shooting. “It was obvious who the cop was that shot him because he was pretty distraught,” said Derek Brown. “All he said was, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.'” 

According to sources, one of the officers responding to the complaint was wounded by a piece of shrapnel at the scene of the shooting and was brought to Tulane Medical center to be treated for a minor injury. 

The officer who shot Apollo has been reassigned and the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau has opened an investigation into the shooting. NOPD policy states that officers are authorized to shoot animals in circumstances where they reasonably appear to pose an imminent threat to human safety and alternative control and defense methods are not available or would likely be ineffective. 

“There’s this whole distinction between perceived and actual threat,” said Jeff Dorson a Humane Society of Louisiana representative. “A little puppy is not an actual threat to anybody on the whole planet, so they can’t use this. They can’t use their policy to shield them from public outcry, from public input, or even possible litigation.”

The NOPD has largely declined to comment on the shooting. This isn’t the first time that an NOPD officer has shot a dog for no obviously apparent reason. 

In January 2020, an NOPD officer shot and killed a New Orleans’ man’s service dog. The man, Clayton Crawford, was heartbroken after his Doberman Hilo was killed. 

“It’s been just spasms of crying and wailing since it all happened. All I have left of her is her toys and blanket she was laying on and laying with me every night,” said Crawford after the shooting. “I’m still crying over it, seeking her comfort. The trauma is just so big.” Crawford is bipolar and relied on Hilo as a companion. 

The shooting occurred on January 2nd after Crawford let Hilo out into his backyard, which wasn’t fenced in, to use the bathroom. Hilo got out into the street, and Crawford heard 4 shots. He ran outside and found Hilo dead on the street. 

According to Crawford, Hilo was not an aggressive dog so he didn’t know why force was necessary. The NOPD reported that the incident occurred, the officer was not attacked or bitten by the dog, and that the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau Force Investigation Team is currently investigating this incident. Furthermore, officers with the NOPD never want to resort to using force. Unfortunately, in this instance, the involved officer felt it was unavoidable.” The NOPD never elaborated on why the shooting was unavoidable in what they called “an unfortunate incident.” 

Almost 50% of households in the US own a dog, so why isn’t the NOPD better equipped to handle them? “How about a strong voice command? How about making friends with the dog? How about using your baton? How about using your pepper spray, if you’re really that concerned,” Jeff Dorson asked. “It’s common sense, 90-percent of this, plus a few little good techniques, and you’re on your way, with no shooting, no discharge of a firearm, and no dead puppy.”

According to the Puppycide Database Project, this is not an issue that’s unique to the NOPD. Several thousand pets are killed by police every year. It was estimated by the Department of Justice, that the dog shooting epidemic has become so bad, that 25 to 30 dogs are shot by police every day. It’s also not uncommon for dog shootings to result in bystanders being injured or even killed, like the officer who was injured by shrapnel in Apollo’s shooting. 

Preventative steps on the NOPD’s part, like conducting trainings on how to deal with dogs, using alternative equipment to handle them, contacting animal control, avoiding entering private property without contacting the property’s owners, and improved follow-up on dog shooting incidents, could prevent dogs from being killed in the future. 

The NOPD needs to reconsider its protocol in handling dogs and address its officer’s instincts to shoot at a possible threat and ask questions later. Next time, it may be a human, not a dog, who gets killed by a trigger-happy officer. 

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