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Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager has expressed interest in working with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) on the department’s treatment of animals, according to an email message sent today from spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein.
“Upon seeing the YouTube video of the death of Max, the Rottweiler, I contacted the Hawthorne Police Department Chief, Robert Fager. I called for an investigation into the incident and offered our services as Los Angeles’ original animal-welfare organization,” Bernstein wrote.
“Today I received a letter from Chief Fager. In addition to launching two independent-agency reviews of the incident, he will look to spcaLA as ‘not only a resource but a barometer of best-practice methodology’ as the department reassesses its treatment of animals during police actions.”
As of Wednesday, more than 4.8 million people have viewed the video of Leon Rosby, handcuffed for interfering with a police situation, looking on in horror as a Hawthorne police officer shot Max four times after the dog jumped out of Rosby’s car and ran toward the officers.
In a live chat today hosted by the Los Angeles Daily News, Bernstein said that based on what she saw in the video, “It seemed to me that the officer could have demanded the suspect control his dog. The arrest did not appear to be a response to violence. Then animal control could have picked up the dog.”
Bernstein said that deadly force should only be a last-resort option. “Unfortunately, it is often the only option that police know,” she said. “Remember: Any time an officer discharges a weapon in the street, it can ricochet and be dangerous to surrounding onlookers.”
Officers should be trained in dog body language, Bernstein said, and have non-lethal tools available, such as a Taser, breaking stick or catch pole. She noted that pepper spray usually does not work on dogs.
Colorado recently became the first U.S. state to pass a so-called “Don’t Shoot My Dog” law that requires the training that Bernstein recommended.
Could a similar law be enacted in California?
“I am the legislative chair for the State Humane Association of California – and I will start the process right away,” Bernstein said.