“Felony” Police Dog Gets Death Penalty

November 27, 2009 at 3:54 am 8 comments

Most of the local outlets aren’t covering this, but Minneapolis KARE11 News is reporting on the “euthanasia” of a local police K-9:

At ten years of age, Felony was nearing the end of his K-9 career with the Howard Lake Police Department. It just wasn’t supposed to end like this.

On October 30th, one of Felony’s handlers found that the black labrador had escaped his kennel.  He immediately called the Wright County Humane Society, who reported that they didn’t have the dog.

The County wasn’t aware that Felony had been picked up by a dog catcher working for the Animal Humane Society (AHS) not long after he escaped.

“Our officer contacted the Animal Humane Society shortly after contacting the dog catcher, said Chief Tracy Vetruba. “Unfortunately, at that time the dog catcher still had the dog, who he did not believe was our dog, and it ‘was’ our dog.”

Felony had somehow lost his license and rabies tags — and he had never been micro-chipped.  Thinking that their original calls to Wright County Humane Society and Animal Humane Society were sufficient to alert them to the dog, the Howard Lake police did not make any follow-up phone calls.  So, when he arrived at the Animal Humane Society Felony was placed on 5 day mandatory hold.  During the hold time he was labeled as “dangerous and unadoptable” — so at the end of his hold time, the police dog was killed.

The Howard Lake Herald-Journal reported that the dog was described to AHS and Wright County as being a black labrador.  Since he’s a working dog who’s almost eleven, Felony has a grey muzzle and paws — which reportedly made Kozitka believe he was not the “all black” K-9 he had just been asked to look for.  Why he didn’t think it was important to notify the police department of any black labs or substantially black lab-like dogs he picked up on this particular day is beyond me.  AHS skips out of the blame game by stating they have no record of calls from the police department providing a BOLO on Felony.  I’d love to see their phone records for October… 

KARE11 quotes Police Chief Tracy Vetruba:

“It’s kindof like the perfect storm of events coming together to result in a (sic)tradedy,” said Vetruba. “Our officers were devastated to learn that he was put down. He will absolutely be missed by our officers.”

I suppose a callous disregard for the life of a valuable police K-9 on the part of those whose jobs are (supposedly) to safeguard our community’s animals could be considered as part of a “perfect storm”.   I just see it as blatant, cold-hearted callousness. 

CityPages reports:

Howard Lake police say Felony had been with the force since 2002, after K-9 stints in Ortonville and Hector, and was responsible for more than $25,000 worth of seized drugs, cars  and cash.

This dog spent his life serving the community.  And he didn’t do it for a salary, benefits and a pension — he did his job for the pure joy of it.  What a sad and pointless waste. 

First I’m utterly gobsmacked that the City of Howard Lake couldn’t find the time or money to microchip a $5,000 police K-9.  Second, as dog owning (and tax paying) resident of Minnesota, I’m also deeply troubled by the callous attitude taken by Wright County dog catcher Wayne Kozitka and AHS.  If they make so little effort to identify and return a valuable local police K-9 that they’ve specifically been asked to look for — what kind of treatment can an average pet owner expect?

We’ve blogged here before about AHS’s disturbingly high kill rates.  I couldn’t find information on their website about the methods AHS uses to assess the adoptability of dogs in their care, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they use some version of Susan Sternberg’s test.  Sternberg’s Asses-A-Pet program recommends testing a dog for “food aggression” by poking it with a fake hand while it’s eating.  A picture of one of these hands is shown below – next to a picture of the kind of bite sleeve commonly used to train police K-9s.

Take a good, long look at those two pictures and tell me how shocked you’d be to find that a shelter stressed dog who has had any protection training might take one look at the item on the left and confuse it for the one on the right.  And then explain to me how a group who was specifically asked to be on the lookout for a lost black labrador who is a police K-9 doesn’t think to contact them when a short-coated black dog who likes to bite sleeves is seized the day after the loss is reported (oh, thats right – they never got the message [head-desk]).

Felony gave his life for his community.  Instead of dying a heroic death during a drug raid or tracking down a violent criminal – he died a sad and pointless death alone in a shelter death room.  Instead of being lauded as a hero, he’ll be mourned as a “mistake”.   …it breaks my heart…

To help protect these wonderful, valuable, four-legged public servants from similar pointless cluster fucks mishaps in the future, Midwest Animal Rescue & Services has offered free micro-chipping and registration for police dogs across the Twin Cities metro area.  Show them a little love.

Entry filed under: cynicism, dogs, minnesota. Tags: , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jan  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    It’s hard to believe that Felony wasn’t microchipped. Police dogs do run away to explore like any other dog.

  • 2. Chris  |  November 27, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I agree with your post except I have doubts about your theory about Felony’s possible reaction to the sleeve.

    The law enforcement dogs that get protection trained – the dogs that learn to bite a sleeve – are the typical protection breeds (Belgian Malinois, GSDs, Rotties) for a good reason – they naturally excel at it. Labs for the most part, tend not to shine in protection work. Felony is described as a drug search dog which is common for labs in law enforcement work. They are extensively trained in scent/retrieval work and can be regarded as specialists. They are not used in situations where the handler would need protection. A protection trained lab would be unusual and an extra liability as it’s not expected.

  • 3. Jess  |  November 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Even a microchip is no guarantee with some shelters. The local shelter is notorious for not scanning for chips, because it takes ‘too much time.’ One family called and were told that no dog meeting their description with a chip had been found. On a hunch the family went to the shelter and there was their dog! They were told the dog had been scanned and did not have a chip, so the family made a stink until the dog was scanned again, and what do you know, there was the chip, registered to the family, who was very glad to have their dog back.

    And this is a city with a mandatory microchip law.

  • 4. H. Houlahan  |  November 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I doubt the lab was trained to bite the sleeve for apprehension training.

    But most drug dogs are trained with a a very competitive game of tug-of-war as a reward for finding. Trainers will often use a jute tug.

    Or it may have never gotten to the “poke him until he bites” stage.

    Most drug dogs are naturally bouncing off the walls. Idiots without an ounce of dog sense see a dog with this kind of working temperament and see “aggression.”

    My GSD SAR dog has this kind of temperament. Many “shelters” would reflexively kill her because of her low threshold for excitement. She is harmless, but extremely annoying.

    Also, because she is sable and the correct size and structure, most “shelters” would call her a mixed breed.

    A microchip is important, but may not have saved this dog, so wretched are these nimrods.

  • 5. Anne  |  December 2, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I agree that this was a crap way for this dog to go out. However, I want to clarify one piece of misinformation: AHS does not emply ‘dog catchers’ or any kind of ACO/CSO- that is a city responsibility in the State of MN. The dog catcher was working for the city, but AHS is open admission and does accept stray animals. I find it intersting that the city ACO brought the dog to AHS- is AHS the impound facility for the city (i know AHS serves as impound for some local communties)? if AHS is the impound for where the dog was lost, why was the first phone call to the HS of Wright County? If AHS is NOT the Impund and Wright County is, then why did the ACO drop it off at AHS? If a police officer (who should know where related government agencies are housed) can’t figure out where to look for their missing animal, it’s got to be incredibly difficult for an average person doing minimal work.

    I know the police said they called AHS, but i wonder if they filed a lost report and uploaded a photo of the dog on the website (http://www.animalhumanesociety.org/services/lostorfoundpets/lost/list) and did they then look at the photos of animals being housed as strays at AHS? (http://www.animalhumanesociety.org/services/lostorfoundpets/stray/list).

    As a test i called AHS to report a (fake) missing animal. I was immediately invited in to view the stray dogs personally, and then directed to the website for further follow-up. Did the police ever stop in to any shelters to actually LOOK for their dog? Or did they assume a complete stranger would be able to make a positive identification for them (on a common, no-id wearing dog)? It is the owner’s repsonsibility to do the footwork when it comes to finding a lost animal. I’m sure they thought 1 phone call is enough, but as anyone who works in AC or with missing/stray animals, 1 phone call is NEVER enough, especially with rotating staff.

    I second Chris’ my sentiments about the bite sleeve.

    Un a semi unrelated note, i did receive AHS’ annual report recently, and looks like their euthanasia rate in ’08 has dropped to 39% (70% feline, 25% canine). I think that’s down like 10% compared to ’07 if i remember correctly (i think it was near 50% then). That seems like they’re moving in the right direction at least

  • 6. Debra  |  December 5, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    How many times do you think a person should call about an animal ?

    Read Rosie’s story on: http://santasmrsc.blogspot.com/2009_12_01_archive.html

    Rosie’s family had several contacts with the Golden Valley Humane Society and they still killed their family pet of 5 years.

    Something needs to be done to ensure even a rotating staff follows a certain protocol. Animals need to be checked and rechecked before being killed by lethal injection.

  • 7. Anne  |  December 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    In response to your question, i think a phone call is not an appropriate response to a missing pet. If the stray holding period is 5 days, then at minumim a person should personally visit their Impound and other local shelters at least once every 5 days. However, it would be better to visit every day.
    I feel that if all you are able to do is call about your missing pet, then you better be calling every day.

    That’s not to say that i am condoning what happened to Rosie, which was obviously a terrible and tragic mistake.
    I am very suprised to hear that a cat on their adoption floor was euthanized- are we certain the cat was seen on the lost and found board and not the adoptable animals pages?

    Having just lost a pet myself, my thoughts are with Rosie’s family during their time of grief

  • 8. Kely  |  December 23, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Just to get a few facts straight. The Wright County H.S. is now the AHS. They merged a few years ago.

    I know for a fact that some cats do get pulled off of the adoption floor and euthed, unfortunately quite often. At least at the Buffalo shelter.

    I too am surprised that the dog was not micro chipped, you would think that with that valuable of an animal it would be.

    It really angers me that the AHS supposedly doesn’t have a record of the police officers calling. I would trust the word of a police officer any day over the staff at AHS – who are just trying to cover their butts. They killed an animal that didn’t have to be. Just like the cats in St. Anthony. That dog could not have been that bad. It went into the schools, it was in public places, it had handlers that could work with it safely. The dog catcher obviously had to handle the dog. There is no way I can ever believe Ray’s comment that the dog was that bad.

    I think that this is just another prime example of how the AHS works. It’s not about the animals – just money, money, money. Don’t believe me? Just see how much Janelle Dixon makes in a year.

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