It appears the Police Captain in Harrisburg Pennsylvania has decided to take matters of stray dogs into her own hands - and it is not pretty. Check out this memo below from Police Captain Annette Books that gives officers three options when they come upon a stray dog - kill it, keep it or dump it. This makes me so scared for owners who have missing dogs - the chances of having them returned seem slim to none! Read the full article below - and if you have time, give the Harrisburg Police Department (717.255.3131) and Mayors Office (717.255.3040) a call, let them know that a budget decision is an unacceptable reason for this behavior, and officers are being asked to break the law. There should be swift action to end this instruction and it should be made clear that the instructions in that memo should not be carried out.
It’s a bad time to be a dog in the city of Harrisburg.
Slip the leash, get lost or — worse — abandoned, and a dog faces summary execution or extraordinary rendition to some remote corner of Dauphin County.
All of it’s beyond the law, according to Tom Hickey, a member of the Governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board.
Hickey said the people of Harrisburg should beware.
“Keep your dogs inside — don’t risk them getting lost,” Hickey said. “If it gets lost, you’re going to find out real quickly how bad this is.”
Pat Wadsworth learned firsthand on New Year’s Eve.
The 65-year-old city resident saw a dog wandering near a Dumpster-style trash bin at Cameron and Herr streets.
“It looked out of sorts,” Wadsworth said. “I could tell something was wrong.”
The dog was frightened, and its uterus had prolapsed.
Wadsworth called city police, who responded promptly.
The officer told Wadsworth — despite what Mayor Linda Thompson had said on TV — the city had no contract with the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area Inc.
He could shoot the dog, he said, if she thought it was aggressive.
“He said he wished he could do something, he was apologetic,” said Wadsworth, “but the city has no money. That’s the way it is.”
Luckily, Wadsworth knew some people who rescue animals. “I made a couple of calls. They made a couple of calls, and the dog was saved,” she said.
According to an internal police department memo, officers have three options when responding to a dog complaint: Kill it, adopt it or dump it.
dog memo.JPGView full size
The Dec. 5 memo from Capt. Annette Books instructs officers to “destroy” animals at their discretion if the animal is a danger to the public or obviously sick or suffering.
Alternately, the officer can ask the person to adopt the animal or adopt it himself.
Or he may “place the animal in the prisoner van and release it in an area where it will be safe for the animal.”
Hickey said that’s abandonment, it’s illegal, and any officer doing it “should be charged.”
The Governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board member said it’s time to play hardball with city officials.
“Somebody in Harrisburg is making up their own laws,” Hickey said.
Every provision of that memo, he said, is illegal.
Hickey said the law is clear: Stray dogs must be kept in a publicly accessible facility for 48 hours “to give the people whose dog it is an opportunity to find the dog.”
The Department of Agriculture enforces the dog law.
That’s why the memo instructs officers who kill dogs to take the corpses to the back of the Agriculture Department building on Cameron Street.
Hickey said he has spoken with folks at the Agriculture Department and told them, “If carcasses are brought in, I want them to count the bullet holes.”
“Under Pennsylvania law,” he said, “you may shoot a dog with one bullet. More than one bullet, and it’s cruelty.”
If a carcass from the city has more than one bullet hole, he said, “I want the department to charge the person who fired that gun with cruelty.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said no carcasses have been delivered to its building.
“We have not had any discussion with the city of Harrisburg regarding this matter,” Samantha Krepps said in an email. “We have a call in to the police chief. The city of Harrisburg exclusively handles the dog licensing and dog-control activities within the city limits. However, if we are made aware of inappropriate activities, we will pursue.”
Thompson’s spokesman, Robert Philbin, acknowledged the police department’s memo is still in effect.
He and the mayor had previously denied it.
They thought the issues with the Humane Society had been resolved, he said.
The city had failed to pay its bills, and the Humane Society terminated service in October.
Philbin said city officials sat down with leaders of the Humane Society in mid-December and agreed on a number of issues, including that “payment would be made — about $6,000 — that would keep services in place into 2012, when the first-quarter payment could be approved by [the] Council.”
Humane Society Executive Director Amy Kaunas acknowledged payment came in, but said now it’s a new year.
“It’s a whole new ballgame,” Kaunas said. “We need a new contract.”
Philbin said, “Our understanding was the payment received last week would keep our relationship going,” but the city has since received letter from the Humane Society “asking for another $10,000.”
Philbin said: “The mayor has budgeted $85,000 to the Humane Society for 2012. City Council cut it to $70,000. ... Be that as it may, we are in a budget situation right now. Making any payment to the Humane Society is unlikely deep into February.”
Until then, Philbin said, “that memo is in effect for the police officers.”
“It’s the best way for them to address the situation,” he said.
Philbin said he didn’t know who devised the memo, calling it “a policy of the Bureau of Police.”
When told a member of the governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board was calling it illegal, Philbin referred questions to city solicitor Jason Hess, who failed to return multiple messages.
Since Pat Wadsworth found the injured dog New Year’s Eve, other cases have come to light.
A beagle puppy was found shivering in the cold. Police officers told the woman who found it to return the puppy to the street or find a rescue.
A pit bull was found on City Island. A sympathetic police officer called animal rescue.
Hickey said the Humane Society used to get 60 dogs a month from the city.
If they aren’t taking them, and none have appeared dead behind the Department of Agriculture, “Where are all the dogs going?” he asked. “There’s something not right here.”
The Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance, a rescue group, is inundated.
Volunteer Kris Baker, who answered Pat Wadsworth’s call, said, “We are in a crisis here in the capital city of Pennsylvania.”