Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pitbull Mauls Police Horse, Deserves Death?

You've probably already heard about the case of the pitbull shot in Colorado. I've seen the whole video, and at no point does the poor dog "charge" at anyone; Chloe is quite clearly standing stock still in her babysitter's garage, feet from her own bed, while three policemen close in on her. Only after she is fucking tasered does she react, running further into the garage away from the cops. The cops close in on her further, and she tries to run out of the garage. Then she gets collared with a catch pole and then shot five times. Seriously?!

Now, I'm not a huge defender of pitbulls-- while I've never met one I didn't love, they're not all friendly, and because of their breeding, they are capable of doing a lot of damage. I don't blame people for being somewhat cautious. But in this case, it seems like the cops way over-reacted. A pitbull is not automatically a "vicious dog," and a pitbull in her own home, already caught, should not be shot! Did anyone even try to tempt her with a ham sandwich or an open car door, before tasing her and shooting her? Jesus.

Oh no, better shoot this vicious dog!

By the way, turns out the cop fired six shots, not just the five that went into Chloe-- one bullet stuck a nearby car. Seems to me the trigger-happy cop was more of a danger than the dog! More news coverage here.

It's too late for Chloe, but it may not be too late for Charlie.

Charlie's story took place even further out of my bailiwick (San Francisco). It's also a fairly old story now (happened back in August) but it's worth discussing, in part because I'm much more on the fence about this case, and would like to hear your opinions.

So there was a dog, named Charlie, who happened to be a Pitbull. (Well actually, the owner claims he's an "American Staffordshire Terrier," but let's just cut that bullshit out, shall we? They're pretty much the same.)

Charlie's owner had let him loose in a designated off-leash area in Chrissy Field, a huge open space. It's part of a national park nearly in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. The dog was happily running around when a mounted police officer appeared on his regular patrol. Charlie barked a lot at the horse, then charged the horse, a Throughbred named Stoney. Stoney threw his rider and bolted, Charlie chased, and somewhere in there the dog bit the horse several times, the horse kicked the dog, and the horse fell down. A motorcycle cop was eventually able to stop the chase/fight about a mile away. Charlie was "arrested" by the cops. Stoney had to have a bunch of stitches on two legs and his belly. Video of everything except the actual fight here:

Who is at fault?

The cop, for riding his stereotypically nervous Thoroughbred horse, around city dogs unaccustomed to horses, when those city dogs were all loose?

The pitbull owner, for not having his pitbull on a leash, or having trained it more thoroughly, as he should have done because it was a pitbull?

The public, for over-breeding pitbulls, demonizing pitbulls, demonizing cops, or defending violent dogs?

I am just plain stumped on this one, honestly. Both the cop and Charlie's owner were doing everything legally right. I do wish the dog had been better trained to come when called. I do wish the horse hadn't bucked and bolted when the dog ran at him. But for all I know, these animals were perfectly trained, and this one-time incident was just a freak accident. I am tempted to say "shit happens." But does it have to?

Stoney & his rider, officer Evans
Pitbulls: I think maybe all pitbulls should be required to be leashed at all times. But on the other hand, I believe that Arabians are much more likely to cause injury to inexperienced riders, and I'm certainly not in favor of restricting them in any way.

And regardless of what happens with pitbulls in general, what should happen to Charlie? Should he get a death sentence because of this incident? I really, really hate to see a dog killed because of one mistake. But on the other hand, I do believe in the old farmer's adage about how, once a dog tastes blood (learns to hurt/kill) they'll do it again. 

I just don't know guys. What do you think?

The most current news as of 12/12/12 is that Charlie will have to be euthanized, and his last appeal failed. Get updates on his Facebook page here.

Read anti-pitbull facts here.
Read a pro-pitbull and dog expert's testimony here.


  1. On the account of what happened to Chloe The officers, ACO and ECO, should be ashamed of their handling of the situation... PERIOD!

    As for the case with Charlie, even though both Officer and Dog owner were doing everything right legally. I do believe the owner should have done more training with his dog before putting him in a place where he was going to encounter other animals/people unrestrained. Therefore, ultimately the dog owner is at fault. However, the dog is only guilty of behaving like a dog that is unsure/weary of something that is new/different. So when the horse spooked and then ran off it triggered the preditor/prey instinct in the dog in which the breed of the dog isn't the issue as most any dog regardless of breed would have done the same thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know all the arguements on how they're supposedly more "predisposed" to this behavior. However, in the case of the American Staffordshire Terrier (yes they have common ancestry as "pit bulls", but they are NOT pit bulls) and other breeds deemed as being a "pit bull" they are not predisposed to such behavior. That would be like saying Border Collies are predisposed to biting children because of their being bred to used for herding purposes.

    THat being said, it's very possible that both animals and possibly even the humans were having an "off" day and this is just one a "freak accident" like you mentioned. However, if there was any doubt in my mind that my dog, no matter if it's the "Pit Bull" I currently own or a future dog (no matter the breed), would not respond to my commands immediately while off leash. No matter if the dog was at home or in a park. That dog would NOT be allowed off leash in an area where other dogs/animals/people are roaming around. That's just common sense, in my opinion.

  2. I share my home with a pitbull/staffordshire cross. She is the nicest dog. She is also the hardest dog to work with. She rarely listens and has a hard time following basic commands. Because of that she doesn't get be loose. She is never allowed at my barn because she is nippy with my horses and she is known as the cat murderer.
    On the other hand my horse and I were attacked by a black lab while out riding. All dogs are capable of this. Pitbulls are capable of a lot more damage.
    It was not my choice to have this dog, she came with my step daughter. We do everything we can to be responsible with her and hopefully will never have a problem like this because of that.

    1. It's awesome that you're so aware of the limitations of your dog. Pet owners and parents alike sometimes are so blinded with love, they can't make reasonable rules for their pets/kids. Good for you.

    2. I have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not my choice either but I inherited him from my son. He is the dearest dog but cannot be trusted around any other animal. We are always conscious of gates and doors being shut and the only couple of times he did manage to get out, he went straight next door to play with the kids. As for poor Charlie, I blame the owner. Charlie needs to be better trained and I don't think he should go back to that family without some restrictions and orders in place ie training or more training. A friend of mine is a cattle dog trainer and her dogs are amazing. Please give Charlie a chance! Get him some more training either with that family or another but don't put him down for ONE error!

  3. I want to say Charlies owner and the San Francisco police dept. and the officer.
    Why do you say the SFPD and the officer??? Well having spoken to a number of them who are mounted patrol, over the years when I lived in the Bay Area, they don't know how to ride a horse when they first either get picked to transfer to that unit, or when they put in a transfer to the unit based on .....
    wait for it....
    senority... that is right kiddies... senority, the same goes with motorcycle cops for the SFPD.
    So you take a person who has no experience with a large flighty animal, they are older and have slowed a little or possibly have joint issues from working 18 years on the force... and you teach them how to ride a horse, and to do crowd control with other officers and their assigned horses, how to go in and out of traffic with said horse... and all the other stuff a cop needs to know to do their job.
    Now put that same police person on the back of a TB, and have it rushed by a snarling/barking loose dog and have they taught him how to control said horse in a situation like this?? maybe, have they taught him how to stop a seriously frightened/bucking runaway horse... no not really, they probably talked scenarios and have a manual on it. And did a few walk throughs of how to fall safely from a horse on nice soft sand in an arena and how to stop a horse in one or two methods...
    Experience teaches people how to deal with a 1200lb runaway animal, a 6-8 week course does not.

    How do I know this... it was a dream of mine to be a mounted police person. imagine my horror and dismay to talk to a mounted patrol officer and learn he had never been on or really around horses till he got assigned to that job having been on a police officer some 15-18 yrs.
    That's right, they go on senority not experience. At least in the big cities they do.

    1. WHAT?! Oh my God, I had no idea. I can't understand why mounted patrol would be treated like a cushy position for older cops instead of an assignment that required a ton of training! This feels like it deserves it's own blog post...

    2. It may be the SF police dept mounted unit is entirely different from National Park Service mounted units . ... see my comment below . . . Officer Evans and Stoney came from D.C. National Park Service . . .. neither a rookie nor inexperienced horseman . . ..

  4. First, Officer Evans rode his horse Stoney for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C for 4 years prior to moving to San Fran. If you've ever been to the National Mall, the crowds esp. during huge events--protests, inaugurations--that is no cake walk assignment. So this horse has 4 years of serious big city stuff under his belt .

    Second, officer Evans has 18 years experience training mounts for the National Park Service mounted unit in D.C.

    Third, the breed profiling (flighty TB --all that jazz) that goes on among horse people is one of my pet peeves.

    I live in KY heart of racing country, therefore the heart of retraining TBs for something else country. There's nothing about having been at the track that ruins a horse for being steady at a new job. It's the training, it's the experience, it's the miles--a veteran is a veteran. I worked at an Arab farm where the owner had a big business retraining off the track tbs for other jobs, hunter jumper, polo ponies you name it. I've even heard rumors some are working ranch horses.

    Many TBs, including Derby winner Funnycide go on to be working pony (lead) horses at the track.

    NO, it does not surprise me in a million years that a TB could have the steadiness and courage required for police work. But I didn't know for a fact just how ordinary it is--so I googled it. Many departments around the country use TBs. Some of NYPD's finest are TBs--can't think of a tougher city gig than that.

    So I hope that dispels the notion that there is something inherently foolhardy or inappropriate about a TB doing police work.

  5. Next, some say Stoney ran-- was flighty, somehow asked for, incited this attack. Stoney stood his ground, while Evans from 200 ft away asked the owner to restrain his dog. The owner could not, the dog charged, tried to grab the cop's boot, then clamped onto Stoney's front leg . . . Stoney in trying to fight this dog off his leg, lost his footing--horse and rider went down. It was only at that point, Stoney high-tailed it 1.6 miles back to the barn. The dog chased the whole way and attacked again at the barn. Maybe some see that as lacking in courage on the horse's part--I see that as a horse fighting for his life with good reason.

    My feeling about this whole situation is this guy had a super high prey drive tenacious dog. Maybe he didn't know what he had, but it's fairly clear that he did not have the serious training to be safe off leash. The usual tragic story is that lack of recall plays out in a dog not being able to be recalled off a chase getting hit by a car. Most people don't have that great a recall, despite that being off leash is supposed to be a privilege for dogs who CAN be safely controlled by their owners.

    Anyone who owns any dog any where knows dogs are highly distractable creatures given to their instincts. Anyone who lets a dog off leash without good training must know they are taking a risk in doing so--a million things could go dangerously wrong besides running into a horse unexpectedly. If you have a super sociable dog with little drive and a soft mouth, maybe you can get away with a lot . . . . but this dog's drive is a game changer. This dog requires the best training and an owner who is not screwing around. There is no room for error with this dog. It was off-leash at a public national park, not a fenced in dog park--therefore a higher bar of obedience should be expected by the public . . .He wouldn't last long in the country like this.

    To me this is entirely a case of personal responsibility . . . . I know my dog isn't 100% reliable on a recall,

    I know that if I let her off leash that is a risk that I alone chose to take with her safety. If one of a thousand things that could go wrong does go wrong--the planets don't align, a bunny runs under our nose, a car backfires--THAT is on ME . ..not the police, not the park service for letting wildlife live there, not people who don't like my breed of dog, not the fact that it's raining on Tuesday.

    I think Charlie could be managed in the right hands, but shouldn't be with an excuse making owner who really doesn't get the gravity of what this dog is.

    1. It sounds like you have some pretty detailed information that wasn't released to the public-- were you personally involved?

    2. "My feeling about this whole situation is this guy had a super high prey drive tenacious dog." Aptly put. Most dog owners of any breed don't understand that the type of prey drive specific to their particular breed rules (natural vs trained) their animal's behavior...just as all herd animals are "prey" animals and being prey animals it's natural instinct that rules them, i.e. flight is usually their first reaction, followed by fight if cornered and feeling no escape is available.

      I own 2 Staffordshire Bull Terriers and I owned a 3rd who is now deceased (old age and congestive heart failure). Pit bulls, AmStaffs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers all have common backgrounds. They were initially bred to fight to the death if need be (tenacity), to get a hold and not let go (tenacity) and to keep going back for more even after injuries (tenacity). Their pain thresh hold is staggeringly high and their prey drive can rival any wolf in some cases.

      That being said, they're great dogs with many positive characteristics but owners MUST socialize, train and restrain them. Mine are never free outside of my house. I crate them when I leave the house. I even go out with them into the yard despite a 5 ft chain link fenced yard. Supervision is a priority with these dogs singly and double that if you own multiples. I teach them to release anything in their possession at a simple "no". They're tough little dogs and very powerful physically despite their "medium" breed standard of 12-15 inch height and 25-40 pound weight range. They need firm, strict training with no babying. I train mine then I put an electronic collar on them later on and go back through the schooling. My old dog could be stopped in full blown charge with just a word but I'm not so stupid as to believe that he would always without fail have stopped and took measures for both his safety and those we came in contact with during our daily routines.

      The horse...well any horse has a limit to what they will tolerate whether or not they're a veteran of many years or not.

      The fault in this case lies with the dog owner in my opinion, for failing to control their dog. Tragically their dog will pay the ultimate price for their foolhardy negligence. I don't believe the dog should be euthanized and feel the rush to kill all the "bullies" to be, in part, a media hyped craze of the current "politically correct" mindset. I remember when it was the Doberman in the spotlight with the Rottweiler waiting in the wing. And in between was the hybrid wolf. The current pro-pitbull slogan is "blame the owners, not the dogs" is spot on track and can apply to all so-called dangerous dog breeds.

  6. Not at all, this is all public information . .. .. I just kept following the story and cross checking sources. The county attorney released to court findings which come up in an online search . ..

    Here is a link to an update on Stoney's recovery with a detailed account of the events. Stoney did not run until he was felled by the dog being clamped onto his leg. He didn't buck and bolt.

    If you rewatch the video posted here--the officer states that the horse ran AFTER the dog felled him, attacking his leg.


    Sorry, city attorney .. .

  8. Check your video starting at :27 .. . . the dog lunged at the horse, bit at his belly, then latched onto the leg causing the horse and rider to fall . . ..


    Here's a statement released by the police too, which strangely the dog's owner has linked to on his save Charlie FB page . . ..