We have been following the continuing line of cases of police officers shooting pets during raids or investigations. The latest is in Hartford where two police officers shot a family dog in front of a 12-year-old girl after entering the residence of the Harris family without a warrant. They claim the St. Bernard named Seven snarled and charged at them when the entered the yard. Officers John O’Hare and Anthony Pia are defendants in the trial.
The federal trial just began in Hartford over the 2006 shooting.
The family will present evidence that Seven was known as a gentle dog without any history of biting or snarling.
The girl had an extremely close relationship with Seven. The officers said that they were investigating a claim that there were two guns stashed in a car on the property. When they came around the house into the yard without a warrant, the girl, listed in the complaint as K.H., ran around the other side of the house to hold Seven. However, before she got there, the officer shot the dog. When she got to the yard the officer were standing over Seven who was still breathing. She reportedly screamed “Don’t shoot my dog.” One officer allegedly then shot the dog a third time in the head and told her that the dog wouldn’t have made it.
It was O’Hara who shot the dog from about 3 feet away. Pia supported O’Hara’s account that the dog was trying to bite him on the legs. Neither officer mentions the delay before the third shot or the girl being present.
The fact that this was arguably an illegal search adds an interesting dimension to the case. Except for the driveway, the property is enclosed by fences or gates with “Beware of Dog” signs. A “knock and announce” with a warrant might have allowed the family to retrieve the dog. The question is why the officer elected to discard the need for a warrant and simply enter the property unannounced.