Cops Are Also Shooting Pets In Black And Brown Communities At Much Higher Rates

By STEFANO BLOCH and DANIEL E. MARTÍNEZ

As the con­ver­sa­tion around exces­sive police force has pushed the coun­try to con­sid­er nov­el and dras­tic reforms in the wake of the mur­der of George Floyd and the wide­spread protests that fol­lowed, there is one area that has yet to gain wide­spread atten­tion. Given the hor­rif­ic bru­tal­i­ty wit­nessed in Floyd’s mur­der and oth­er cas­es of black, brown, and poor peo­ple being killed by police offi­cers, it’s under­stand­able that law enforce­ment killings of pets has yet to become a major issue. Still, it is worth con­sid­er­ing what these killings can teach us and what we might do about them. Ultimately police killings of pet dogs only fur­ther demon­strate the racial dis­par­i­ties in police vio­lence and the need for reform.

The real­i­ty of dog deaths at the hand of police says far more about how humans are over-policed than about dogs per se. The real­i­ties of shoot­ings asso­ci­at­ed with and at dogs reveal one of the insid­i­ous and rarely acknowl­edged man­i­fes­ta­tions of state vio­lence enact­ed in and on vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties of col­or.

Moving beyond the sen­sa­tion­al media sto­ries and activist accounts of “pup­py­cide” that put the num­ber of dog killings by cops at more than 10,000 annu­al­ly, we recent­ly looked at the data on offi­cer-involved shoot­ings obtained from the third and fourth largest police agen­cies in the coun­try. While we found the per­cent­age of dog-relat­ed offi­cer-involved shoot­ings to be extra­or­di­nary, the over­all num­ber of dog shoot­ings were low­er than what has been cit­ed in pub­li­ca­tions rang­ing from the Atlantic to Police Magazinenum­bers based on a gross esti­mate pro­vid­ed by Laura Mathews, a spe­cial assis­tant with the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. To be sure, dog deaths at the hands of police do reg­u­lar­ly occur, with the online post­ing of count­less graph­ic videos — many of which include scenes of vio­lence also being direct­ed at humans—offer­ing fur­ther evi­dence of the prob­lem.

But as our analy­sis of the data on offi­cer-involved shoot­ings reveals, between 2010 and 2016, Los Angeles Police Department offi­cers were involved in 417 shoot­ings, with dogs being shot in more than a quar­ter of cas­es. For the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose offi­cers were involved in 406 inci­dents between 2010 and 2017, dogs were shot 45.6 per­cent of the time. More alarm­ing than the num­ber of dogs being shot by police is where dogs are killed by police, as we dis­cuss in a recent study
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