Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dog euthanized after police pursuit in Milton

By Neil Johnson, The Janesville Gazette

When Milton resident Jillian Beaty got home from work late Tuesday afternoon, she found blood in her house, a window knocked ajar and her 8-year-old Shar-Pei dog, Magoo, missing. Beaty went out to look for her dog, fearing the worst. Her instincts proved true.
Magoo was dead.
Beaty and her husband, Dale, soon learned that their family dog had been euthanized because of injuries he suffered while forcing his way out of the window and later when he was intentionally struck by a city vehicle that was pursuing him.
In a report Friday, the Milton Police Department said the dog was seen running about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday on the city’s west side, blocks from the family’s one-story home on Wildfire Lane. Officers responding to citizen reports of a bloody pit bull found Magoo near Milton High School.
The dog had no collar or identification and ran from officers and a public works employee who was helping police.
Worried that the bleeding dog had attacked someone and that it was near a school, police chased Magoo on foot and then began to pursue the dog south through Schilberg Park with a police squad car and a public works truck.
According to the report, public works employee Donnie Zimmerman was driving the truck, with school resource officer Jim Martin riding along and another officer following behind in a squad car.
After unsuccessful attempts to lasso the dog from vehicles, police said Zimmerman bumped the dog with the front of his truck, sending the dog rolling.
Police said the maneuver was an attempt to “slow the dog down, or to stop it so that we could catch it.”
But Magoo kept running, finally collapsing on a deck at a house on Tower Hill Drive, east of Schilberg Park and blocks south of his family’s home, police said.
Police subdued the dog there and contacted the Rock County Humane Society, which contracts with the city for removal of stray animals.
Magoo showed no aggression toward officers during the incident, police said.
James Hurley, operations manager at the humane society, said he took Magoo from Milton to the shelter in Janesville late Tuesday morning and decided to euthanize it there because the dog was bleeding heavily and was in shock.
Hurley said Magoo was having trouble breathing, but he said police hadn’t told him they had hit the dog with a vehicle.
“I was only there for five minutes. It was a scoop and go,” he said.
Hurley said he checked Magoo for microchip identification and found no hits on the humane society’s database for missing Shar-Peis.
Since Tuesday, the Beatys have been distraught over losing their dog. It was only on Friday, however, that they learned Magoo was hit by a city vehicle.
Dale Beaty said he now believes Magoo was mistreated by police because the dog looked like a pit bull or a fighting dog. Beaty said Magoo actually was gentle and skittish and often cringed or ran from strangers.
“He never so much as nipped at anyone,” he said.
The Beatys don’t know what led to Magoo getting loose while they were at work Tuesday, but they said common household noises sometimes scared the dog. They think something spooked him, causing him to ram the window Tuesday and injure himself.
The Beatys also said they left Magoo’s collar and identification off indoors because it irritated the wrinkles on the dog’s neck.
Cassandra Fowler, a veterinarian at the Janesville Animal Medical Center, said she conducted a necropsy on Magoo on Friday at the Beatys’ request.
She told the Gazette that the dog appeared to have major internal injuries to his lungs, the kind of injuries an animal would normally suffer when hit by a vehicle.
She said it’s unlikely the dog would have gotten lung injuries from ramming open a window, and she said the humane society made the correct decision to euthanize Magoo.
Beaty said he’s seeking a police investigation into the incident.
“All we can do is be part of making sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said.
Police Chief Jerry Schuetz said police were trying to keep a bloody, unidentified dog away from people, but he declined further comment.

Update October 20, 2010 4:28pm - The following article is by Neil Johnson, The Janesville Gazette:

Investigation shows Milton dog was intentionally hit

An investigation showed that city of Milton employees who on Sept. 21 hit a stray dog with a city-owned truck did so intentionally, Milton Police Chief Jerry Schuetz said in a statement Wednesday.
The discovery came out of an investigation by the Rock County Sheriff’s Office into how the Milton police handled the stray dog incident, Schuetz said.
A Milton police officer and a Milton Department of Public Works employee reportedly admitted to sheriff's investigators they'd purposely hit a stray family dog with a city truck in attempt to catch it, Schuetz said.

The investigation was prompted by the dog’s owners, Milton residents, who had requested the Milton Police Department have another agency independently investigate the incident after they learned in a police report their dog was hit by a vehicle.
The dog, an eight-year-old Shar-Pei, had gotten loose from its owners' home in Milton and was running on the city’s west side. Officers at the time were responding to reports the dog was a “pit bull.” Police said they’d found it with a bloodied face running near Milton High School, and feared it was a threat to the public.
The dog was later euthanized by the Rock County Humane Society, and a necropsy later showed it had lung injuries similar to those an animal would sustain after being hit by a vehicle, a local veterinarian reported.

In the wake of the sheriff's investigation, the Milton Police Department is suggesting a slew of policy changes to city animal control procedures, including directives on use of deadly force in capturing stray dogs.

Update October 21, 2010 10:06am - The following article is from Channel 3000:

Officers, Public Works Employee Won't Face Discipline After Hitting Dog

Milton city officials said that they're not recommending any punitive action after a Milton Department of Public Works employee and Milton police officers admitted to striking a bloodied pit bull running loose around Milton High School with a public works truck last month.
Milton Police Chief Jerry Schuetz issued a news release on Thursday summarizing an investigation into the incident that occurred on Sept. 21.
Authorities said that incident began after the dog, which apparently had blood on its face, was spotted near the high school. Milton police officers responded and with a Department of Public Works worker, attempted to capture the animal.
"The dynamics of this situation created uncertainty for our employees," Schuetz said in a statement. "Testimony from the three employees suggested the dog posed no immediate threat, yet based upon facial injuries to the dog and the uncertainty of what caused those injuries, there seemed to be an underlying need they felt to capture this animal."
This prompted them to "intentionally striking the dog with a department of public works truck in an effort to slow it down and capture it after other efforts were discussed and did not appear appropriate or feasible," according to the chief.
Schuetz said after interviewing them, they said that they never acted with malice.
He said that he wasn't recommending any formal discipline, citing "several areas where existing policy, ordinances and operating procedures have failed our employees." He said those policies are now in need of revision.
Milton's mayor and the police chief have met with the dog's owner, the Beaty family, to express their remorse for this incident, according to the news release.
"We have promised them and extend that promise to all of the citizens of Milton that we have taken immediate corrective action to correct our mistakes and shall make recommended changes to our code of ordinances that will help guide our employees in their response to these types of incidents and hopefully prevent a tragedy like this from happening in the future," the chief said in the statement.
Schuetz said that the Rock County Sherriff's Office conducted the independent investigation into the incident.

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