The shooting of a Siberian husky at a Maryland dog park by an off-duty federal police officer has aroused national outrage. Now the Anne Arundel County Police Department, which initially refused to investigate the incident because there was no sign of criminal activity, has announced it will conduct a full investigation.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the change of heart came after County Executive John R. Leopold, who described himself as “outraged” and “deeply troubled,” contacted Chief of Police James Teare.
“This is a priority case,” Teare now says. “The citizens need to feel they are safe to go into a park and not have their pets in danger or themselves in danger.” Teare, like Leopold, is himself a dog owner.
Leopold promised on Wednesday that “if charges are warranted … we’re going to prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
The shooter is a Department of Defense employee whose identity has not been released. According to a statement from the Anne Arundel County police, however, he told them “that he feared for the safety of himself, his wife and their dog” after the unleashed husky came over and began roughhousing with his own German shepherd. He said the husky tried to bite him when he went to separate the animals, so he pulled out a handgun and shot the dog.
Bear-Bear died a few hours later at an emergency veterinary clinic, and his owners tell a very different story. “I find it so hard to believe that this man really felt his life was in danger when he had so many other avenues to break up what was just a dog tussle,” said Rachel Rettaliata.
“They were roughhousing, wrestling, what dogs usually do,” added Ryan Kurinij. “I was shocked because he took out his weapon, took two steps back and fired.”
“I’ve been bawling my eyes out since 7 p.m. last night,” Rettaliata told the Sun. “It’s grief mixed with anger. We’re so angry this guy was able to take our animal for what we feel was no reason at all. We still don’t believe that he’s gone.”
Tiffany Greco, who fostered Bear-Bear when he was removed from an abusive situation and placed at a husky rescue center, described him as “a very lovey-dovey, happy-go-lucky guy.”
“They have a much different play style than other dogs,” she said of huskies. “They’re a rough-and-tumble breed. They’re mouthy. Often people interpret that as being aggressive when it’s really them just playing.”
The Baltimore Sun reports that “since news of the shooting broke, people from across the country, many with dogs of their own, have flooded online forums and showered officials with complaints. Television stations all but camped outside the home of Bear-Bear’s owners. … Animal advocates created Facebook protest pages with names like “Justice for Bear-Bear,” while others started legal defense funds.”
“I have great concern regarding the shooting incident (Monday) night at the Quail Run dog park,” County Executive Leopold said in a statement released on Wednesday. “It is concerning whenever a firearm is discharged at a public facility, let alone a facility that close to homes and children playing. All aspects of this incident merit a thorough and complete investigation.”