09/22/08 — Bad judgment: Training is minimum that needs to happen in town

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Bad judgment: Training is minimum that needs to happen in town

Durham should have been in his pen.

And had he been there, the sad story from Mount Olive would not have happened at all.

To honestly address Thursday's shooting death of the beloved family pet, that is the first thing that needs to be said. It is only fair.

But after that, there is a problem with how the Mount Olive police handled the situation they faced when they got a call that a "vicious" dog was loose in the neighborhood.

The most important question is -- why was shooting the dog necessary? He was pretty far away -- and there is a million-dollar animal shelter just down the road.

To control the situation, all the officer had to do was call animal control and monitor the situation to make sure no one was hurt. Calling animal control should have been step 1 -- and the Mount Olive Police Department should have a policy that instructs its officers to do just that.

And, if this dog did, indeed, have a history of running, why wasn't that information available to a rookie cop? Why wasn't he able to call the department and get some advice from some of the more experienced officers there about how to contain the situation while still giving the owner time to correct the problem?

And the questions don't stop there, either.

Why leave someone's pet in a garbage bag by the side of the road? No one in their right mind could call that compassion.

Mayor Ray McDonald is right. This was a horrible mistake -- and one that the town should work to make right.

And the first step toward that end is making sure that the county's animal control officer is on speed dial -- and is invited to the Police Department to talk with the officers there about handling strays in the future.

The next step should be to talk about imminent danger -- and what constitutes a justifiable reason to kill an animal.

No one -- even the most fervent dog lover -- wants an officer or anyone else in danger from an aggressive dog. That is not right and should not be tolerated. Police have to be able to protect themselves and the public.

But there is no denying, what happened here was a tragic error in judgment -- and the town must move forward now to make sure there are rules in place to make sure such an error never happens again.

Published in Editorials on September 22, 2008 11:08 AM