Police officer shoots dog, animal lovers voice concern

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Animal lovers voiced concern, Thursday, after a police officer walked into someone’s back yard and shot a dog.

Salt Lake Police went searching for a missing child, Wednesday afternoon.  Police found the child safe and sound, but an officer killed a neighbor’s pet in the process.

"People really are upset, and we get that—we really understand that," explained Sgt. Robin Heiden with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Police knocked on several doors around 1500 E. and Parkway Avenue in Holladay.  A three year-old boy had been missing for about a half an hour, when the incident happened. 

"An officer went around back to check the back yard to see if the toddler had gotten into the back yard.  That's when he encountered this dog and felt threatened, and shot the dog," said Heiden.  

The dog owner was not home Thursday because he was burying his pet.  

JaNae Macfarlane lives down the street, and she has a few dogs of her own.

“I am really sorry the officers in question felt threatened.  They have a very difficult job to do… but I was really shocked, confused, and angered,” she said.

The animal lover says police had no right to enter the dog's territory.  Police say the missing child did make for exigent circumstances.

"We would never go into somebody's backyard without that exception to the law," said Heiden.

Over the past three and a half years, Salt Lake Police have shot five dogs.  They say they do feel for the owner, in this case.

"We'll be meeting with him to assist in any way to get him through it," said Heiden.  

That is not enough, though, according to the Humane Society of Utah.  Program leaders are calling for officers to receive more specialized animal training. They say there are less lethal means of handling these situations.

"We're hoping that this will be a learning experience for the Salt Lake Police Department, that they'll review their policies—take a look at them—and see if there's a better way," said Carl Arky, Director of Communications for the Humane Society of Utah.

"We've actually forwarded this to internal affairs and they're going to investigate whether or not the officer was within policy," said Heiden.  

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