Richard Ord: Are we overreacting slightly over police shooting a dog?

The dog which was destroyed in Hartlepool on Sunday.
The dog which was destroyed in Hartlepool on Sunday.
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At the risk of proving unpopular, I put it to you that we are overreacting slightly at news the police shot a dog in Hartlepool?

In case you missed the story - and I don’t know how, since it’s travelled the globe in less than 24 hours - the police shot dead a German Shepherd after it was found tied to a telegraph pole in the town.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d be the first to complain if our bobbies on the beat were speeding round my neighbourhood taking pot shots at pets, but this was different.

By all accounts the dog was no shrinking violet. It was in the mood to tear flesh. Or as the police put it, it was becoming increasingly aggressive.

The officers at the scene could not calm the dog or locate the person who abandoned the animal. They liaised with the RSPCA, a rehoming charity and veterinary professionals and between them the decision was made to put the animal down.

Honestly, you’d think they’d killed it with flamethrowers and hand-grenades given the reaction of the public. Within hours a vigil had been organised and an online petition set up lambasting the gun happy cops.

At the last count more than 40,000 people had signed the petition! Yes, you’re reading that right ... 40,000. Did they think it was a real shepherd, not a dog?

I would ask what more could the police do in the situation given the advice they had sought from the relevant animal groups? The online police critics weren’t short of advice. “Why didn’t they use a Taser instead of a shooter?” one complained.

Clearly too many had been watching the movies, calling for tranquilliser darts to be used. One blasted the police because they “never thought to liaise with zoo/wildlife park or similar for something to sedate from a distance.”

Don’t the cops have David Attenborough on speed-dial? Blinking amateurs.

Another demanded to know why the authorities had failed to read the dog’s body language correctly.

What? Look beyond the slavering jaws, wild eyes and snapping teeth. Can’t you see the wagging tail? He just wants to nuzzle your jugular not sever it.

Understandably, the police didn’t share that opinion.

One concerned member of the public said the whole effort of the police in trying to calm the dog was “bang out of order.”

An unfortunate turn of phrase given what followed. And inaccurate. A more apt description would they were “bang, bang out of order.”

It took two shots to kill the poor beast.

That’s my only gripe with the actions of the police, but then it may be standard procedure to use two bullets.

One good thing to note is that at least we know the story means many more abandoned pets will now live to tell the tale.

This country puts down an average of 20,000 dogs a year that can’t be rehomed. With 40,000 signing the petition, I’m sure this year a home will be found for all of them. Or am I overreacting?