I attended the Justice For Geist Rally on June 28th. Chants of biscuits not bullets, justice for geist, and dogs are family too could be heard in front of the Salt Lake Police headquarters. It was a peaceful gathering of dogs and their people who want a change in policy of how police officers interact with dogs.
This is a post that is hard for me to write as my emotions run high on this matter. Here is my dog Wren. He goes to daycare, has more gear then some humans do, and is my kid. He has advanced training, and later this summer will complete the Canine Good Citizenship certificate test. He is fantastic with kids. Yet if a stranger were to enter his yard he would bark, and it would sound very aggressive. This is his job, he protects us- his pack. Would he harm the person, it's doubtful but he is a tall 55 pound dog that would appear threatening if you didn't know him. My heart goes out to Sean Kendell whose Weimereiner Geist was shot in his backyard by officer Brett Olson. As of the rally Sean Kendell hadn't received an apology for the loss of his companion and friend. Police Chief Chris Burbank held a press conference following the shooting. He said he is dissapointed over the public's response, but I have to say we are dissapointed in his response.
As a concerned dog owner here is what I wish to see:
First: an apology and acknowledgement to Sean Kendell that this is tremendously sad, and that the department recognizes a change in policy needs to be made.
Second: Some sort of disiplinary action against Officer Brett Olson, community service hours at the Humane Society of Utah would be a great way for him to learn how to interact with animals and why they are such an important part of our lives and so much more than property.
Third: And the most important change- TRAINING. If everyone from the postal service, cable company, contractors, and utility companies can interact with dogs in our backyards without shooting them, it's time for our police officers to learn the same techniques. That day there were so many options: look over the fence first to see if there was a dog, ask a neighbor for help with entry, if you are in the yard why not shoot a bullet in the ground to force a retreat, use pepper spray or a taser, or simply exit the yard.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for police officers and the hard job they do protecting us every day, but if a K-9 dog is shot it is considered murder of a police officer (as it should be), so the same consideration has to be given to our pets.
There is a follow up rally on July 19th at the Utah State Capitol 9am-Noon.