Officers have shot 13 dogs this year — setting a pace to double the 17 dogs shot in 2008 and surge past the 20 shot in 2009, according to the department’s internal investigations reviewed by the Dayton Daily News.
Just last month, police shot and killed six dogs, the most in any month since before 2008.
A majority of the dogs are pit bulls loose in the city’s northwest neighborhoods, which is also where a majority of the city’s homicides, gang violence and drug arrests have occurred since 2008.
State law prohibits pit bulls to be let loose, gives guidelines how they must be restrained and requires owners to obtain liability insurance.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said pit bulls have a “direct connection with the drug culture.”
The increase of shootings coincides with an uptick of pit bulls destroyed by the county’s Animal Resource Center.
Unclaimed pit bulls are euthanized as per the center’s vicious dog policy. Last year the center euthanized 1,092 pit bulls — three a day and 160 more than in 2008, Director Mark Kumpf said.
Through April, 73 more have been destroyed than this time last year.
Dayton Daily News
Update May 29, 2010 2:09pm - A related report from Dayton Daily News:
There have been 44 Dayton Police Department internal investigations of officers discharging firearms at dogs since 2008, according to a review of police records.
Officers were cleared of any wrongdoing in all cases.
Snap decisions are part of an officer’s job, but when someone’s life is in danger lethal force is the only option, said Lt. Michael Wilhelm whose officers in northwest Dayton have fired on the most dogs in the city.
“If it’s a life-threatening situation destroying the dog is the only option,” he said. “If the dog has already attacked someone and is running loose then we have other options like calling the animal shelter.”
A pack of dogs in January already had Carl Hobbs on the ground, savagely biting his arms and legs when Officer Susan Benge arrived in her police cruiser.
As she radioed for backup in the 2100 block of Litchfield Avenue, James Easterling jumped out of his SUV with a baseball bat, swinging wildly at the four pit bulls and one Rottweiler, video from her police cruiser shows.
Easterling retreated to his SUV after one of the pit bulls bit him in the leg and Benge used her cruiser to separate the dogs from Hobbs. She ended the January ordeal minutes later, shooting two pit bulls and the Rottweiler. One of the pit bulls was later euthanized.
Easterling and Hobbs were treated at local hospitals for severe bite wounds, police said.
The dogs’ owner, Michelle Orrender later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to register or license the dogs, according to court records.
Pit bulls or pit bull mixes are the only breed classified as a vicious dog by the state. They must be confined in a locked pen that has a top, a locked fenced yard or other enclosure that has a top, according to state law.
While off the premises the dogs must be chained or on a leash no longer than six feet.
“We are seeing more and more loose and aggressive dogs,” Wilhelm said. “But we are seeing more packs of dogs, which, to me, seems to make them more aggressive.”
The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, by law, cannot allow pit bull adoptions and last year put down an average of three pit bulls a day, despite the number of dogs available for adoption remaining steady.
This year that number has climbed to 3.5 pit bulls euthanized a day or 421 through April. State law requires all unclaimed, unlicensed pit bulls be killed.
The numbers suggest there are more abandoned dogs running free in the area, but why is somewhat a mystery.
“It’s hard to say if there are more strays or what might be the cause (for the increase),” said Mark Kumpf, the resource center’s director. “But there have been a lot of home foreclosures and pets often get left behind.”
Kumpf, city police and Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said there are no signs pit bulls are being used for illegal fighting, but said they can’t rule out underground dogfighting arenas exist in the area.
“I am not seeing scars on the dogs indicating they are being used for fighting,” Kumpf said. “And I think we’ve done a good job recently getting the message out that dogfighting will not be tolerated here.”
Kumpf backs police officers who shoot aggressive dogs, saying they need to do what is necessary to protect the public.
“I don’t think any officer draws their gun lightly and with malice,” he said. “Police officers have limited tools to deal with an aggressive dog. Dogs don’t respond to put your hands up or get on the ground.”
But Kumpf won’t shoot and neither will his 11 officers.
None of them carry guns, but instead use pepper spray, bite sticks or a “catch stick” to snare an aggressive dog. Tasers are an option but are not designed to shoot at small animals, police said.
About two weeks ago, Kumpf’s counterpart in Clark County, Jimmy Straley, was surrounded by three loose pit bulls and fell down while trying to beat the dogs off with a catch stick.
Straley got back up to run away as a pit bull lunged at his legs. The dog was shot and killed by a police officer before it could strike Straley.
“I’ve been bitten before and so have my officers, but every situation needs to be judged on the circumstances in which they occurred,” Kumpf said.
So what should you do if you encounter an aggressive dog?
“We tell people not to run away because that makes the dog chase you, and don’t ever make eye contact,” Kumpf said. “Retreat slowly and drop something like a bag or umbrella to distract the dog. There’s also training we use to tell people to act like a log. Lie down and cover your vital organs like the back of your neck with your hand and keep your face down. It works.”