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Humane Society president says Braintree police acted properly on dogs

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 19, 2012 03:53 PM

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The head of the local humane society is supporting the Braintree Police Department’s decision to put down two dogs who had attacked a police officer and a child in separate incidents, as new details of one of the encounters emerge.

According to Mary Connolly, president of the South Shore Humane Society, police were right in how they dealt with the dogs.

“As heartbreaking as the decision was to have the dogs euthanized, I believe the Mayor and Police Chief made the right decision. And I think a review of the program is absolutely appropriate,” Connolly said in an email.

The dogs are chosen for what is referred to as “prey drive,” Connolly said. In other words, the dogs are hard-wired to chase something if it runs and are naturally aggressive.

“A well-trained police dog is a delicate balancing act -- on one hand you're asking a dog to run something down and get it, and you are also asking that dog to stop when you want it to stop. It is a huge commitment of the part of the trainers to keep the dogs focused and work with them daily,” she said.

Stopping the program entirely, especially after three incidents with the dogs, is a necessity.

The program was shut down after a third in a series of separate incidents with police dogs was reported.

Recently, an officer was attacked by another officer’s dog without provocation, Braintree police said.

A year ago, an officer was bit in the hand by his police dog while on duty. The dog was later found to have a genetic anomaly and euthanized.

The officer’s next dog reportedly bit his child in the hand when the officer was not present. The dog was accidentally suffocated on scene.

New details in the latter instance have emerged from a recently released police report, which said police had subdued a dog with pepper spray after it bit the officer’s child. The officers then suffocated the dog in an attempt to pin the dog down and gain control.

The details run contrary to earlier reports from Police Chief Paul Frazier, who said that the dog was suffocated as a means to release the dog’s grip from a child.

Police did not return calls seeking comment.

Connolly said that, although painful, putting a dog down sometimes is the best course of action.

“I’m sure the police officers involved are devastated by this -- yes putting the dogs down is best for public safety, and I have to say it was probably best for the dogs well being also,” Connolly said. “Such highly trained active dogs would not do well retired and stuck in a kennel for the rest of their lives. Given their years of service to us, it’s our responsibility to think of their well being even if it’s a heartbreaking, unpopular decision.”

Regardless of what occurred to lead up to this point, several things need to be analyzed going forward, Connolly said.

Police should look at the bloodlines of the dogs to ensure a breeding kennel isn’t too focused on one trait verses another, which may lend the dogs to be too aggressive or hyperactive.

The breed type might also need to change.

“Over the years the trend has gone from German Shepherds to the lighter Malinois and Belgian breeds -- maybe these breeds or bloodlines are being overused and inbred resulting in a more unstable dog. I would review the breeding and kennel issue,” Connolly said.

The training program should also be reviewed and reevaluated, Connolly said.

Police may even want to look into animal shelters for dogs, which have sometimes been surrendered because they have “too much prey drive,” Connolly said.

Although an analysis of the program is necessary, the dogs are still a great resource.

“Police dogs are a valuable and expensive resource -- they have saved the lives of many humans both civilian and police alike,” Connolly said. “ But they are also a huge responsibility and I have to agree with both the Mayor and Police Chief in this difficult decision” to halt the program.

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