Police Say Dog That Was Fatally Shot Saturday Was Aggressive
Bowers Street dog owner said his 5-year-old Labrador mix was very friendly.
A Birmingham man is upset after his dog, Buddy, was killed Saturday night by Birmingham Police officers.
Conflicting accounts were going around early this week from police and neighbors about an incident that occurred around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the 1900 block of Bowers Street.
Buddy, the 5-year-old Labrador mix that was killed, belonged to Birmingham resident Terry Boyle, who said he's now working with an animal rights lawyer.
“It doesn’t make sense why you would shoot him,” said Joey Spino, a friend of Boyle’s who helped put together fliers and a Facebook page about Buddy’s death. “And this is Birmingham. It’s the land of surburban house pets.”
However, Birmingham Police Cmdr. Terry Kiernan said there was no wrongdoing on the part of the officers, saying the situation called for the officers to defend themselves against an aggressive animal.
According to police reports, two officers on patrol found Buddy on the corner of Eton and Bowers Street Saturday night. Buddy was a few houses down from his own house and immediately ran home when officers approached him, reports said. Police tried knocking on the door and calling Boyle's phone number but received no response.
Police said that meanwhile, two neighbors came over, telling the police “not to trust the dog.” One of them said this wasn’t the first time Buddy had jumped his fence, noting Buddy had once fought with her dog, the report said.
At that point, Buddy began acting aggressively and growling and after hearing the neighbor's complaint, Kiernan said the officers felt liable leaving the dog unattended and began trying to return Buddy to his yard.
According to police reports, the officers retrieved noose poles from their cars, which are used to corral and control dogs. They tried approaching Buddy but said he continued growling and acting aggressive. Another neighbor tried to help lure Buddy into his yard with dog treats, but reports say it didn't work.
At that point, Kiernan said one of the officers noticed the backyard gate — located at the side of the house — was locked and tried unlocking it using the noose pole. As the gate began to open, the officer said Buddy chased him around the house and continued growling at him. The pole slipped at that point, the officer said, and the gate started to close.
As he stepped toward the gate, the officer said Buddy lunged at him. With the officer pinned between the house and the fence, he shot twice at Buddy, fatally wounding him.
"The dog charged, and (the officer) was pinned," Kiernan said.
Buddy then limped to the front of the house, officers said. Knowing the dog was fatally wounded, officers called Gasow’s Veterinary Hospital, which euthanizes animals. Gasow’s told police no one was available at the time, leaving police to shoot the dog once more in order to "put him out of his misery," Kiernan said.
Kiernan said incidents such as these are rare — the department has had to kill an aggressive dog only two or three times in the past 30 years, he said — but officers have the discretion to decide whether their safety is in jeopardy.
“There are levels of force you can use to protect yourself,” he said.
Shooting an animal is a difficult decision to make, Kiernan said, but in this case, the officer had nowhere to escape from Buddy's charge. In an interview with the Birmingham Eagle Aug. 4, Kiernan said there wasn't enough time for the officer to withdraw his Taser, charge it and aim.
A police supervisor was called in immediately after the incident occurred, who confirmed the officer was in the right.
“(The officer who shot Buddy) feels bad having to shoot a dog because the guy is an animal lover,” Kiernan said, noting that the officer has dogs of his own.
In addition, this wasn't the first time officers were called to Boyle residence about Buddy. In May 2009, Kiernan said Boyle was cited for having an unlicensed, unattended dog. In April 2010, police received a complaint that Buddy jumped his fence and attacked another dog while in August 2010, neighbors complained that Buddy was loose and rummaging through trash.
These reports conflict with the story from another witness, Boyle said, referring to a neighbor who watched the incident from across the street. According to Boyle, the neighbor said Buddy wasn't acting aggressively toward the police and he didn't see Buddy running in the streets beforehand.
Boyle said his neighbor told him that officers cornered Buddy on the side of the house. Kiernan said this neighbor hasn't yet filed a report with the police and the case is still under investigation, though the officer in question will not be investigated.
According to City Attorney Tim Currier, no charges will be filed in the case.
“While additional charges may and could be warranted concerning the matter, given the circumstances, and because the potential for further harm to persons and other animals is no longer present as the animal has been euthanized, no warrant will be issued against Mr. Boyle at this time.”
Spino said Buddy wasn't a scary dog at all and that the effort on Facebook is to create awareness of a situation he and the owner still don't understand.
"Buddy did not deserve this," he said.