TIME Law

Pet Owners Look to Muzzle Police Who Shoot Dogs

Brittany Preston

Bereaved owners argue that when police shoot dogs it a violates their Fourth Amendment rights

Correction appended, Sept. 26

Lexie, a Labrador mix, was barking in fear when the police arrived at her owner’s suburban Detroit house early in the morning last November. The officers, responding to a call about a dog roaming the area, arrived with dog-catching gear. Yet they didn’t help the one-year-old dog, who had been left outside the house, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court: Instead, they pulled out their guns and shot Lexie eight times.

“The only thing I’m gonna do is shoot it anyway,” the lawsuit quotes an officer saying. “I do not like dogs.”

Such a response, animal advocates say, is not uncommon among law enforcement officers in America who are often ill-equipped to deal with animals in the line of duty. And now bereaved owners like Brittany Preston, Lexie’s owner, are suing cities and police departments, expressing outrage at what they see as an abuse of power by police. Animal activists, meanwhile, are turning to state legislatures to combat the problem, with demands for better police training in dealing with pets.

There are no official tallies of dog killings by police, but media reports suggest there are, at minimum, dozens every year, and possibly many more. When it comes to Preston’s dog, officials from the city of St. Clair Shores and the dog owner agree on little. City police say the dog attacked, prompting officers to open fire in self-defense. But the lawsuit filed by Preston cites police audio recordings to argue that the November 2013 shooting was premeditated, prompted by officers eager to kill a dog. Preston is suing the city for violating her Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

“We want whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Christopher Olson, Preston’s lawyer. “Before this case I wasn’t a dog shooting lawyer, but I am now.”

St. Clair Shores defended the officers’ actions.

“The animal was only put down after a decision was made that it was in the best interest of the residents,” said city attorney Robert Ihrie, who is defending the city in the lawsuit. “Sometimes police officers are in a position where they need to make very quick decisions for the protection of themselves and others.”

The Fourth Amendment argument gained traction in 2005, when the San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels sued the city and the police department because officers had killed dogs during a gang raid in 1998. A federal appeals judge found that “the Fourth Amendment forbids the killing of a person’s dog… when that destruction is unnecessary,” and the Hells Angels ultimately won $1.8 million in damages. In addition to the St. Clair lawsuit, other lawsuits stemming from police shootings of dogs are being planned or filed in Idaho, California, and Nevada.

At the same time, animal-rights activists are lobbying police departments to implement pet training for all officers. Several states including Illinois and Colorado have enacted measures to reduce dog shootings, and others states are considering legislation. In 2011, the Department of Justice published a report on dog-related police incidents, which included advice on how to handle dogs without killing them.

“It’s much more likely that a cop is going to encounter a dog than a terrorist, yet there’s no training,” said Ledy Van Kavage, an attorney for the advocacy group Best Friends Animal Society. “If you have a fear or hatred of dogs, then you shouldn’t be a police officer, just like if you have a hatred of different social groups.”

Brian Kilcommons, a professional dog-trainer who has trained more than 40,000 dogs and published books on the subject, said some police officers accidentally antagonize dogs right from the start, without even trying. “Police officers go into a situation with full testosterone body language, trying to control the situation,” he said. “That’s exactly what will set a dog off.” Kilcommons is developing an app that could help police officers evaluate the best way to handle a dog, including tips on reading body language and non-lethal strategies for containing them. “A bag of treats goes a long way,” he said.

But Jim Crosby, a retired Lieutenant with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Florida who now works in dog training, said there are sometimes cases that require police force.

If you’re executing a high-risk, hard-going entry with an armed suspect, the officers don’t have time to play nice and throw cookies at the dog,” said Crosby, who was commenting on police handling of dogs in general and not any specific case. But he emphasized that such situations are few and far between: “Police absolutely have the right to protect themselves against a reasonable and viable threat—but the presence of a dog is not necessarily a reasonable or viable threat.”

Ronald Janota, a retired Lieutenant Colonel with the Illinois State Police who now serves as an expert witness on use of force, acknowledged that officers are often at “heightened awareness” when confronting dogs. “If you’re the first or second through the door, you don’t have time to put a collar on the dog if the dog is literally lunging at you,” he said. “If you’re entering the house legally, you have the right to protect yourself.”

Regardless of the circumstances, a dog’s death at the hands of police can be devastating to owners.

“People are getting married later, if at all, people are having children later, if at all, and pets are filling an emotional niche,” Kilcommons said. “Before, if you had a dog and it got killed, you got another one. Now dogs are in our homes and in our hearts. They’re not replaceable. So when they’re injured or killed, people are retaliating.”

In St. Clair Shores, where Lexie died, the city is fighting the lawsuit but the police department now requires its officers to undergo animal control training.

Van Kavage said that kind of training is crucial, even if just to instill a sense of trust in the police.

“If a cop shoots your pet, do you think you’re ever going to trust a cop again?” she said. “To control a dog, 99% of the time you don’t need a gun. You just need to yell ‘sit!’ ‘stay!’”

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the person who said, “To control a dog, 99% of the time you don’t need a gun. You just need to yell ‘sit!’ ‘stay!’” It was Ledy Van Kavage.

TIME NBA

NBA Player Got Arrested Again After Domestic Violence Charges

Jeff Taylor
Charlotte Bobcats guard Jeff Taylor (44) shoots during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) in Indianapolis on Dec. 13, 2013. Aj Mast — AP

He had been booked on domestic assault charges earlier the same day

Police in East Lansing, Mich., reportedly arrested Charlotte Hornets small forward Jeff Taylor for a second time on Thursday afternoon and charged the player with malicious destruction of a building.

The damage inflicted on the building was valued at less than $200, and he was later bonded out, according to a local NBC affiliate.

The arrest comes only hours after Taylor was charged with domestic assault, assault and malicious destruction of property.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, the Swedish-American small forward was allegedly involved in an altercation at the East Lansing Marriott; however, authorities have yet to release a detailed account of what happened, according to ESPN.

“The Charlotte Hornets were made aware of the incident involving Jeffery Taylor early this evening. The organization is in the process of gathering more information and doing our due diligence,” read a statement released by the Hornets. “This is a matter that we take very seriously.”

An NBA spokesperson reportedly told the sports broadcaster that the league had commenced an investigation into the matter as well.

The allegations of Taylor’s misconduct come days after the NBA promised to review its policies regarding domestic violence in the wake of the NFL’s recent experiences with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

“We learn from other league’s experiences. We’re studying everything that’s been happening in the NFL,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told a press conference in New York City earlier this week.

TIME Congress

John Dingell, Longest-Serving U.S. Representative, Is Hospitalized

John Dingell
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2014 Lauren Victoria Burke—AP

The 88-year-old Congressman expects to be back in Washington next week

Congressman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) was admitted Monday to Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital with abdominal pain, his office announced.

“Dingell is doing well, is receiving an IV treatment of antibiotics, and remains in good spirits,” wrote Christopher Schuler, Dingell’s communications director, in a public statement. “Doctors expect him to be released in a few days, and Dingell expects to be in Washington for Congressional session next week.”

Dingell, 88, has served in Congress since 1955, making him the longest serving representative in congressional history. His wife Deborah is running to succeed him in office after he retires this year.

TIME Education

See the First Day of School for Students Around the World

Sharpen your pencils, TIME looks at the first day of school from the U.S. to Ukraine

MONEY Sports

Why Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games

Bleachers at Michigan Stadium.
Bleachers at Michigan Stadium. Simon Bruty—Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

With college football ticket prices soaring and expanded conferences leading to less exciting matchups, fans—students in particular—are more likely to watch games from home.

There’s no denying that college football is a hugely successful business enterprise, arguably the second-biggest, most popular sport in the U.S. right now (after pro football in the NFL). But there’s one glaring crack in the armor that college football conferences and storied college programs have been struggling with for years: Fewer and fewer fans are actually buying tickets and attending games in person.

The problem is particularly evident among students, who aren’t buying tickets like generations past. For the upcoming season, the University of Michigan, the winner of no fewer than 11 national championships and 42 conference crowns, projects that student attendance will hit around 13,000—a shocking 40% less than the figure hit last year (roughly 19,000).

It’s not just a problem in Ann Arbor. The Wall Street Journal reported that student attendance fell 7.1% from 2009 to 2013, and that it has even fallen over the past few years at games hosted by perennial powerhouses such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, LSU, and the University of Florida. A year ago, observers took note that home attendance was down for the majority of teams in the SEC, even though the conference has thoroughly dominated college football in recent years.

The two most frequently cited reasons for the ticket slump are simply: 1) higher ticket prices; and 2) less interesting games. A student season ticket package at Michigan, for instance, now costs $295, up from $205 not long ago. There are only six homes games in the package, mind you, so that breaks down to just under $50 per game. “There are students who are being priced out,” a Michigan business student named Michael Proppe explained to the WSJ. “People are looking to trim costs, and for a lot of folks, football is an easy thing to cut. It’s not essential to going to college.”

What makes the decision easier for students at Michigan and other schools is the expectation that the games they’re missing aren’t going to be that good. The shifting and expansion of college football conferences has led to incredibly lucrative TV contracts for the programs involved, but it has also meant that traditional rivals don’t play every year like they used to. Michigan’s biggest rivals are Michigan State and Ohio State, but for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Wolverines won’t be hosting either team this season. Instead, Michigan will welcome the likes of Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), opponents that many fans apparently think aren’t worth paying $50 to see.

As ticket prices have soared, and the quality of the product has declined, it has become more of a no-brainer for fans—poor students in particular—to stay home and watch the game on the couch. After all, this option has gotten cheaper and more entertaining and convenient in recent years, thanks to the declining prices of big-screen TVs and the advent of DVRs, multi-angle replays, and other innovations. Sure, the exciting roar of the crowd may not be there if you watch the game at home, or the frat house, or heck, in the parking lot while tailgating outside the stadium. But the way trends are going in terms of shrinking attendance at games, the crowd might not be all that loud inside the stadium either.

TIME weather

Heavy Flooding in Detroit Leaves 1 Dead, Tens of Thousands Without Power

Historic flooding in Motor City contributed to at least 1 death and knocked out power grids, with more rain expected

TIME Crime

Man Who Shot Unarmed Woman on Porch Convicted of Murder

Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014.
Theodore Wafer sits in the court room during his arraignment in Detroit, Michigan on January 15, 2014. Rebecca Cook—Reuters

Could face life in prison for killing unarmed teen

A Michigan man was convicted of second degree murder Thursday for killing an unarmed woman on his porch last year.

Dearborn Heights resident Theodore Wafer, who is white, was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter charges and felony firearm charges, and could face life in prison for the death of 19-year old Renisha McBride, who was black.

“We are obviously very pleased with the jury verdict and feel that justice was served today,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. “We sincerely hope that this brings some comfort to the family of Renisha McBride.” Wafer will be sentenced later this month.

McBride was killed last November when she sought help at Wafer’s home after crashing her car nearby. Wafer testified that he thought McBride was trying to break into his home. “I was not going to cower,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. I didn’t want to be a victim in my own house.” Wafer also testified that he shot McBride as a “total reflex.”

McBride’s death has frequently been compared to the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teen who was killed in a case that ignited national debate about race, gun laws and so-called Stand Your Ground laws. Martin’s alleged killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of second-degree murder last year.

TIME 2014 Election

The 5 Takeaways from Tuesday’s Primaries

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts greet each other at Johnson County Republican's election watch party Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, left, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts greet each other at Johnson County Republican's election watch party, Aug. 5, 2014, in Overland Park, Kan. Charlie Riedel—AP

The fight for the soul of the Republican Party rages on

Most of the results in the primaries in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Washington on Tuesday were predictable. But Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprise exit in June has primed most political watchers to look for unexpected results as the fight for the soul of the Republican Party rages on. This week’s results proved a mixed bag, with one incumbent going down but others surviving. From a Santa impersonator to Barack Obama’s cousin, here are the most interesting results from Tuesday’s primaries:
 
Sen. Pat Roberts survived. Three-term Kansas incumbent Roberts beat off Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf, a radiologist whose claim to fame is that he is President Obama’s cousin once removed. Roberts overcame questions about residency—whether he even maintained a home in Kansas—that brought down his colleague Dick Lugar in Indiana last cycle. But Milton faltered over the revelation of Facebook posts in which he apparently mocked patient X-rays. Roberts, who outraised Milton by $4.7 million to $1.1 million, was always ahead in the polls. A loss here would’ve been a huge upset.

Rep. Justin Amash survived. In a year when establishment Republicans like Roberts have generally prevailed against Tea Party challengers, they have less successfully gone on the offensive against Tea Party incumbent troublemakers like Amash. Despite being outspent and in the crosshairs of the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove, the two-term Michigan Republican prevailed Tuesday night. Amash so angered House leadership with his antics, they stripped him of his Budget Committee membership in 2012. Apparently, being unpopular in the most unpopular institution in America is a winner with voters.

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio didn’t survive. If Amash hadn’t played his cards right, he could’ve easily have ended up like fellow Michigan upstart Bentivolio. The reindeer rancher and Santa impersonator was an accidental congressman. He happened to be the only one left on the ballot in 2012 when Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to properly qualify for the GOP ballot. Bentivolio didn’t toe the party line and failed to properly fundraise, leaving himself vulnerable to a challenge. Businessman David Trott won the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and self-funded $2.5 million to prevail Tuesday night.

Rep. Mike Pompeo survived. The perception of being an old school, ear marking Republican hurt former Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s bid to take back his former seat from Pompeo. Tiahrt, who represented Kansas’s fourth district from 1997 to 2011, left office to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010. At the last minute before the May filing deadline, Tiahrt challenged his successor to win the seat back. Pompeo, though, had the backing of the Koch brothers and the anti-tax group the Club for Growth, who ran ads mocked Tiahrt’s “earmark of the day.” Pompeo won easily.

Two Republicans advanced from a crowded Washington primary. Doc Hastings,10-term incumbent and chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, is one of nearly three dozen House incumbents beating an path to the exit, disgusted with Congress’s newly intractable ways. But that didn’t stop a dozen people from running for the chance to succeed him. Washington has a top-two advance system regardless of party affiliation but in the reliably Republican 4th district, two Republicans topped the polls: Clint Didier, a former NFL star who won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins and ran as a Tea Partier and Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator and agricultural director. Which means, voters in that district will have until November to decide their own Tea Party versus establishment battle.

TIME Environment

Toledo Lifts Drinking Water Ban

Mayor D. Michael Collins says it's now safe to drink the water

Toledo, Ohio Mayor D. Michael Collins lifted a temporary ban on drinking water Monday, saying the city’s water supply is now safe to drink.

The ban, which began on Saturday, left thousands of residents of Toledo and surrounding areas without drinking water. Water tests showed a toxin, likely from an algae bloom, was contaminating a regional water supply from Lake Erie. Earlier on Monday, the Mayor had said the ban would remain in place. But he later raised a glass of the newly safe water in a toast to his city to prove that it was suitable to drink.

“Here’s to you, Toledo,” he said. “You did a great job.”

Bottled water was trucked in to the area while the ban was in effect, and the Ohio National Guard was purifying water for the residents, the Associated Press reports.

Officials had warned that drinking the contaminated water could cause symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Locals were told not to ingest it, use it to brush their teeth, or boil it. Ohio Gov. John Kasich had declared a state of emergency in response to the problem.

 

TIME Crime

Murdered Teen Texted Boyfriend ‘I’m Being Kidnapped’

April Millsap
April Millsap, in an undated photo provided by the Millsap family via Michigan State Police, July 27, 2014. Michigan State Police/AP

Middle schooler was found dead hours after she left her home to walk the family dog

A 14-year-old Michigan girl who was found murdered last week reportedly texted her boyfriend just before her death.

“Omg… I think I’m being kidnapped,” was the text April Millsap’s boyfriend received from her phone the night she was killed last Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports. Millsap, who was due to start high school in the fall, was found dead by the side of the road, hours after she had left her home in Armada, Michigan, to walk the family dog. A couple found her body later that night, guarded by the collie, named “Penny.” An autopsy report confirmed that April was murdered, but authorities declined to say how, specifying only that she was not shot or stabbed.

Police have interviewed Millsap’s parents and boyfriend, but said they are “not considered suspects in her death.”

[Detroit Free Press]

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