Belfast Telegraph

PSNI officer 'right to shoot pet dog in the mouth'

Aggressive animal attacked as police went to house

By Chris Kilpatrick

Police were justified in shooting a pet dog in the mouth after it attacked an officer, an investigation has found.

The officer who fired the shot said the large Boxer set on him as police responded to a report of a disturbance.

His colleague had also drawn his weapon fearing he would be seriously injured.

The Police Ombudsman's Office was immediately informed about the incident, which happened in 2011, due to the use of live fire and began an investigation.

In a decision just published, Ombudsman investigators were told by the officers involved they heard shouting and barking as they approached the front door of the house, which had a 'Beware of the Dog' sign.

Police said when the door was opened, two dogs – the Boxer and a smaller mongrel – ran into the front garden of the Newry property, with the Boxer then attacking one of the officers.

A woman who lived at the house was said to have fainted after police shot the animal.

The officer responsible said he believed the dog would injure him, and that he fired a single round to prevent injury to himself or anyone else. The dog then ran back into the house.

A vet who examined the dog said it was likely the animal had been struck by a single round which had entered its open mouth, struck its teeth, before exiting through a cheek.

The probe by the policing watchdog concluded the discharge of the shot during the incident had been "lawful, proportionate and necessary" given the threat posed by the aggressive dog.

Details of the incident in Newry, and subsequent investigation, were released by the Police Ombudsman.

The officer's colleague supported his account of the incident, saying the Boxer dog had been so aggressive he had drawn his pistol as the dog ran towards him, before reholstering the gun after it passed.

He said his colleague then came under sustained attack from the dog before firing the shot.

A woman living at the house later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman's Office that an officer had assaulted her by pushing her in the chest, causing her to fall to the ground, where she was unconscious for a time.

The officer who fired the shot denied this, stating that he had not seen her falling to the ground, but suggested that she may have fainted.

A file of evidence was sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which directed that neither officer should be prosecuted in relation to either the discharge of the shot or the alleged assault.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire (left), then considered the evidence for potential disciplinary issues, but concluded on the balance of probabilities that there was insufficient evidence to prove any misconduct offence by either officer.

BACKGROUND

A probe was launched by the Police Ombudsman after an officer shot a pet dog in the mouth.

The incident happened as two officers went to a house in response to a report of a disturbance in August 2011.

In line with standard procedure, the Police Ombudsman's Office was informed about the use of live fire and began an immediate investigation.

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