The shooting of a pet blue heeler, Cisco, by Austin Police Officer Thomas Griffin has drawn attention to police policy in dealing with animals.
Officer Griffin shot Cisco while responding to a domestic dispute call. Austin Police Department (APD) has stated he responded to an address the department was given on a 911 call; however, that address was incorrect. Upon entering the property, he found Cisco and his owner, Michael Paxton.
In dashboard video recently released by APD, Officer Griffin can be seen reaching towards his holster before exiting the frame. Seconds later, he’s heard yelling “Show me your hands,” and the sound of a barking dog occurs. Officer Griffin can then be heard yelling “Get your dog!” and a shot occurs immediately afterwards.
The Austin Police Department policy on “Firearms Discharge Situations” deals specifically with the shooting of animals:
In circumstances where officers encounter any animal which reasonably appears, under the circumstances, to pose an imminent threat to the safety of officers or others, officers are authorized to use deadly force to neutralize such a threat.
In circumstances in which officers have sufficient advanced notice that a potentially dangerous domestic animal (e.g., dog) may be encountered, such as in the serving of a search warrant, officers should develop reasonable contingency plans for deadline with the animal without the use of deadly force (e.g., fire extinguisher, TASER Device, oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, assistance of animal control). Nothing in this policy shall prohibit any officer from resorting to deadly force to control a dangerous animal if circumstances reasonably dedicate that a contingency plan has failed or becomes impracticable.
At a press conference, APD said the dog had charged at Officer Griffin. However, supporters of Paxton have since pointed out Griffin’s directive to Paxton to put his hands up created a situation where restraining his dog was at odds with Griffin’s directive.
The Austin-American Statesman reported that Police Chief Art Acevedo apologized for the incident on the KLBJ’s Dudley and Bob show this morning, noting that an investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, awareness of the incident continues to proliferate nationwide, with Good Morning America, MSNBC and Gawker picking up on the story today.
Here's video of the incident released by the APD: