Officials in Harrisburg, Penn., this week are reconsidering a controversial decision to have police officers there shoot stray dogs, according to a Reuters report.
Last month, the police department in the money-strapped city issued a memo granting officers the right to shoot “dangerous” dogs and to drop their carcasses off at a state Department of Agriculture loading dock.
Capt. Annette Books gave police supervisors the following instructions in the December 5 memo:
If the animal is vicious and a danger to the public and/or officers, or if the animal is obviously sick, injured or suffering the animal may be destroyed in as safe a manner as possible. The animal will then be taken to the Agriculture Bldg. (near the loading dock area) on Cameron St. for disposal.
The memo continued:
If the animal is determined to be a “found” animal, the officer can ask the complainant if they want to keep the animal or if they know someone who will adopt the animal, or the officer can adopt the animal for himself/herself, or the officer can place the animal in a prisoner van and release it to an area where it will be safe for the animal.
If you choose to adopt the animal yourself or release it in a safe environment, DO NOT inform the complainant of your intentions.
The memo goes on to suggest that officers inform citizens the dog is “going to a nice farm in the country.”
When news of the memo broke, you can imagine the outrage. At least one group created a petition to stop the city’s plans. The goal was to collect 1,000 signatures. As of this writing, nearly 1,150 had signed it.
The problem is that Harrisburg is broke, to the point that the city even attempted to declare bankruptcy, but a federal court prevented that last month. Aside from overall economic woes, Pennsylvania’s capital has been unable to pay back bondholders who financed the repair and retrofit of a city incinerator. This led to growing debt, and a decision to break a contract with the local Humane Society.
New guidelines affecting the fate of stray dogs could be announced any day now.