Earlier this afternoon, our volunteers uploaded roughly 150 images of dogs and cats who have been killed or seriously injured by police officers to our new Facebook page. Someone asked a very important question when they came across one of the images we uploaded:
"I don't like dogs being shot for no reason but you do know why this dog was shot right?"
By anyone's standards, the dog in the photo was a bad dog. Quite a few people would call this dog evil. Very few people would defend this dog.
This dog killed a four year old girl.
The police shot the dog in the immediate aftermath of the attack that lead to that girl's death.
Why is a dog like this included in the Puppycide Database Project? Surely, the police were within their rights to shoot this dog specifically, even if, in general, dog shootings should be avoided.
The answer to this question gets at the heart of what the Puppycide Database Project is and what we do here.
The Puppycide Database Project is a research organization and not an activist organization. Our primary goal is to compile records of every use of lethal force by police against animals and to identify trends within that data. There are only two positions we take:
- It is preferable to use less force, less frequently where possible
- Violence of all kinds is a matter of public record; when violence occurs within a community, that community has a right to know what happened, regardless of the circumstances of that violence or the employer of those involved
As an organization, we do not have any positions on whether the use of lethal force against animals is always inappropriate. We do not have any positions on vegetarianism, or factory farming, or animal rights, or the Constitution. The Puppycide Database Project will not recommend that you vote for a certain politician or political party as opposed to another politician or political party.
Because our focus is on research, it is absolutely vital that we include records of every use of force against animals we come across; even if that use of force would strike most people as legitimate. If we were to omit records for dogs that seriously injure or hurt human beings, this would corrupt our research; our critics could claim that we suppressed incidents in which police justifiably shot dogs in order to further an ideological agenda. Those critics would be right. The Puppycide Research Project does not seek out specific kinds of lethal force to add to the database as opposed to others. A large portion of our records are obtained from the media - this is because of the difficulty, cost, and delays in obtaining complete use of force records from police. Whenever possible, we obtain complete records for as many police departments as possible.
A certain amount of confusion concerning our mission is understandable. Many of the people sharing our data on social media are in fact activists and protesters, as are many of the people who submit records to our database. Furthermore, we have covered cases of police officers needlessly killing animals and human beings - when it comes to individual cases that we have fully investigated, our volunteers will not pull punches when we encounter what we believe to be malpractice on the part of police. The ability of some police officers to abuse their position is a reality - few could take issue with the claim that such police officers exist, although many dispute how prevalent the problem is. Part of the reason the Puppycide Database Project is to objectively determine how prevalent such abuses are.
In our blog, we have written a number of stories covering individual puppycide cases - from the Autumn Mae Steele and Kevin Davis killings to the Leon Rosby trial. In our coverage of these cases we have leveled significant accusations of wrong-doing on the part of the police. We stand behind those claims; in each of those cases we provided clear and compelling evidence to support claims of malfeasance. We are rarely alone in our concerns.
With that said, there is a difference between criticizing the actions of specific police officers or police departments and having a set of political opinions about policing or the use of force against animals in general. The Puppycide Database Project not have any pre-conceived notions about how police should deal with animals, besides a preference that less violence is better than more violence. We do hope to demonstrate the efficacy of specific police policies concerning animals by tracking exactly how those policies impact rates of violence and the well-being of pet owners. Our biggest hope, when we started the blog, was to be able to point out specific incidents of puppycide that embodied the sorts of trends we were seeing as we compiled our database.
Some of the families of animals who have been killed by police have begun to use the Puppycide Database Project as a memorial. While this was not our intention when we started the Project, we have been honored that families have chosen to use the Project in this manner. Our volunteers do not provide legal advice, and we cannot promise families that submission to the database will result in massive news coverage, and we cannot organize protests or demonstrations. We can guarantee that we will remember. The PuppycideDB is built to last. We will publish statements and evidence from anyone who wishes to discuss any individual case. Our offer to listen has proven meaningful to families who have had their lives turned upside-down after losing a pet.
It was to our detriment that we have not made it clear that our offer to listen does not only extend to families who have lost a pet; the offer extends to everyone who has been impacted by puppycide. If you have been injured or lost a love one from an animal attack we will listen and publish your account also. Families of those who have lost loved ones to animals are welcome to use our social media pages and database as a memorial to our loved ones also. If you are a police officer and you were forced to defend yourself against an animal attack, we will listen. We are just as honored to add these accounts to our database; we extend the same protection for our sources and publish using the same ethical standards.
The Puppycide Database Project is a democracy. If you take issue with our approach to this or any subject, we invite you to join the Project and change our approach!
It is of utmost importance to the Puppycide Database Project that we do not minimize the hardship of those who have been hurt by animals. Your suffering is genuine and deserves respect. It is our sincere hope that the Puppycide Database can be used in order to reduce violence both to and from animals. Please help us get there.