Sam Mayer, a police investigator who was responsible for facilitating a training program to reduce the number of police shootings of pets in East Texas, has come under fire from activists and the press after he shot a dog in front of an eight year old girl. Police training programs like the one that Mayer was involved in are one of the most popular "solutions" for the growing number of highly-publicized police killings of domestic pets. Mayer facilitated Law Enforcement and Dogs Shoot / Don't Shoot less than five months before shooting family dog Rosie on February 2nd; at least in East Texas, training alone seems insufficient to turn the tide of the Puppycide epidemic.
Shooter Sam Mayer, left, receives award from Rains County TX Sheriff David Traylor
Eight year old Jasmine Harris had this to say after she watched Rains County Sheriff's Office Investigator Sam Mayer kill her dog Rosie:
"It kind of shocked me when he shot Rosie because she's a good dog […] It really scared me because I don't like to see animals getting shot or hurt. It just scared me a whole lot."
Jasmine was with her older sister Alysha during the shooting, who had this to say:
"I hear a gun shot and all I see coming out of the dog is [...] red. I'm kneeling next to the dog and all I see is the dog looking up at me and it dies in my arms."
Rosie the dog. Police describe Rosie as "very aggressive."
The Rains County Sheriff's deparment told the press that Mayer was accompanying an employee of Child Protective Services with an investigation at a residence off County Road 1308. Mayer and the still-unidentified CPS employee encountered Rosie. They stayed inside the car and honked their horn attempting to get a resident to come out. The police describe Rosie as "a large, aggressive dog". A woman came out of the house and waved at them - it is unclear if this woman was Alysha Harris or her mother, Christine Harris. The CPS caseworker got out of the vehicle and began walking toward the house.
Officials do not explain why the CPS caseworker felt comfortable leaving the car with Rosie remaining unrestrained, since she was already supposed to be "aggressive".
The woman walked back into the house and the CPS employee began to follow her when police claim "the dog continued to bark and became more aggressive, biting at the CPS worker".
At this point Mayer got out of the car and started yelling at the woman from the house to come back outside and restrain the dog. Jasmine Harris walked out of the house, responding to Mayer's yelling. Mayer then opened fire on Rosie, stating that the dog was "lunging, mouth open, snapping to bite."
Alysha responded to the allegation form Mayer that Rosie had bitten him:
“The deputy said that it [Rosie] had bit his pants leg and everything, but there were no holes in the pants legs. There was no proof. He never pulled up his pants leg to show us any bite marks."
There are no records of Mayer seeking or receiving medical treatment for the bites he told police he received. The Sheriff's Department is also claiming that the cameras both on Mayer's uniform and police cruiser dashboard were inoperative at the time of the shooting.
Less than six months before the shooting, Sam Mayer had facilitated a training program for the Rains County Sheriff's Department in partnership with the local chapter of SPCA. The training program was titled Law Enforcement and Dogs Shoot / Don't Shoot. The training program itself was designed by the SPCA.
The training program Mayer facilitated was part of Rains County's response to a previous highly-publicized puppycide: the shooting death of Cole and Jayne Middleton's dog Candy by former Jarrod Dooley. Dooley killed the Middleton family dog in April of 2014, and video footage from Dooley's police cruiser dash cam went viral, propelling the story throughout the national media. Dooley resigned from the Sheriff's Department and was charged with felony animal cruelty charges. The charges against Dooley were dropped, however as part of the plea agreement that lead to that wrist-slap, Dooley forfeited his law enforcement license. Without such a license, Dooley cannot be re-employed by another police department. He remains unemployed by a police agency at the time of this writing 10 months after the killing.
"I still hear her yelp from time to time,"
Dooley told local ABC affiliate KLTV Channel 7.
The Rain's County Sheriff released this brief statement regarding their planned investigation into the Mayer shooting:
"Yesterday our officer [Sam Mayer] was involved in an incident where a dog was shot. The initial investigation shows the animal was very aggressive towards the officer and a CPS case worker. A thorough investigation will be conducted to ensure all protocols, and procedures were followed. Once all evidence, statements and photographs are submitted, the case will be presented to a review board to ensure impartiality and fairness to all parties involved."
What does Rains County Sheriff David Traylor have to say about the failure of his response to the Dooley shooting? The "straight-shootin'" Sheriff has yet to sit down with the press and respond directly to his apparent inability to have his officers keep their pistols in their holster's. However, Traylor's comments to KLTV late last year might shed some light on his thoughts on the matter:
"You can put the policies out there. You can try to follow them to the best that you can, and sometimes they work, sometime they don't work, but a lot of it just comes down to common sense [...] but ultimately, it will all come down to judgment."
It remains unclear why the Rains County Sheriffs Department has some many officers on the payroll that apparently lack the "judgment" and "common sense" that Traylor described.
Training is a valuable tool, but it is unlikely to be as effective as a combination of efforts, including training, changes to hiring practices, law enforcement union reform and clear, consistent consequences for officers who needlessly and/or negligently use dealy force.