This Husky’s Death Raised Awareness For Police Violence Against Dogs · The Wildest

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This Husky’s Death Raised Awareness For Police Violence Against Dogs

Enzo was just one of thousands of dogs killed by cops each year.

by Nisha Gopalan
April 4, 2023
A black and white large husky dog named Enzo.
Courtesy of @justiceforenzo

Five years ago, a specialist at the Department of Justice raised the alarm, estimating that police officers kill 25 to 30 dogs each day — and as many as 10,000 a year. They referred to it as an “epidemic.” Since then, those statistics do not appear to be getting any better.

For every feel-good story about love for a K9 unit, there are dozens more that call into question aggression against “civilian” dogs. One of the most recent high-profile cases went down in January 2023, after the police department in Lodi, California tased and subsequently killed a Husky named Enzo when he escaped a fenced yard. Enzo’s parents launched a viral online campaign (#JusticeForEnzo), claiming law enforcement used excessive force and violated “California Animal cruelty penal code 597, Lodi police department policies, as well as Lodi city municipal laws about animal handling procedures.”

After an investigation, a county district attorney determined that this case warranted no criminal charges, “given this standard and the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident,” the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. But #JusticeForEnzo organizers are still seeking retribution for Enzo’s death and even organized a local demonstration this past weekend.

Enzo’s case followed two others, which were equally as devastating. In December 2022, the head of a SWAT team in Novato, California, killed Huck, his neighbor’s Black Mouth Cur, after the dog got loose and killed at least two of his chickens. Four months prior to that, a Brockton, Massachusetts officer shot Leia, a local Micro Bully, mistakenly believing that the dog was attacking him. And in February 2023, a woman filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Detroit, after officers, who had entered her backyard without a search warrant, fatally shot Jack, her Pit Bull — then dumped his body in a trash can. 

It’s also worth noting that “between 2010 and 2016, Los Angeles Police Department officers were involved in 417 shootings, with dogs being shot in more than a quarter of cases,” Slate writes, pointing out that this is a byproduct of the overpolicing of BIPOC populations. “Given the horrific brutality witnessed in Floyd’s murder and other cases of Black, Brown, and poor people being killed by police officers, it’s understandable that law enforcement’s killings of pets has yet to become a major issue.” Regardless, they add, prioritizing the need for reforms to protect people of color will likely also benefit their animals.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) explains that even when officers feel threatened, there are many non-lethal methods they can use. Per the ALDF, it’s essential that officers refrain from entering a property without first providing appropriate warnings. Other experts emphasize that it’s the officers, who tend to lead with militarized and control tactics, who urgently need training — to learn how to read an animal’s body language. “What they term as aggression is usually fear, ” dog-behavior counselor Brian Kilcommons, who’s worked with the Justice Department, told . “[Officers ] need to realize they’re there to neutralize, not control.” 

If compassion isn’t a motivating factor for this change, maybe officials will heed the warnings of Mildred K. O’Linn, an attorney and former law enforcement officer, who points out that these incidents have been creating PR nightmares for police departments for years. “The City of Hawthorne had its network server shut down by Anonymous,” O’Linn explained to Police magazine, citing backlash from a decade ago, after more than four million people viewed YouTube footage capturing police shooting and killing a California man’s dog. “The public cares about these kinds of incidents on a magnitude that is sometimes lost on the law enforcement community.”

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Nisha Gopalan

Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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