June 27, 2014

Arlington officers praised for pacifying ‘aggressive’ dog

The Arlington Police Department says mandatory training has helped officers recognize when animals are being aggressive and to avoid using lethal force unless necessary.

A protein bar and a little affection were all two Arlington police officers needed to coax the muscular, menacing-looking suspect off the streets and into the back of their patrol car.

Because of their thoughtful actions, Jeffery, a white pit pull (and the so-called suspect) has been reunited with his owner and the officers are being widely praised through social media.

After responding to a residential burglar alarm Thursday morning, Sgt. Gary Carter and Officer Heather Gibson were flagged down by some residents walking in the 400 block of North East Street who reported that a dirt-covered, white pit bull was chasing them in an “aggressive” manner. “This dog is so vicious, please get him,” one woman reportedly yelled to the officers.

Carter said the stray dog, who was wagging its tail and didn’t appear to be aggressive, ran away behind a nearby house as he tried to approach it. But then the dog immediately came running back to the officers as it was chased from that yard by a tiny chihuahua.

“He ran right to me, like ‘Help me, help me! This monster is going to eat me!’” Carter said.

Carter and Gibson coaxed the hungry and thirsty canine into a patrol car with a protein bar and some head scratches. Carter, a dog lover, also called a friend who rescues pit bulls and asked for help in finding the stray a loving home.

“Pit bulls, to the general public, have a bad reputation. People associate pit bulls with danger just like they associate guns with danger,” Carter said.

The story of Carter and Gibson’s encounter with the homeless hound has gone viral on the Arlington Police Department’s Facebook page. In one day, the photos received more than 2 million impressions, 40,000 likes and 4,000 comments from readers around the world. Many praised the department for not using lethal force on a dog that has been stereotyped as dangerous.

“Thank you for your compassion and breaking 2 stereotypes! May this pup find his loving home forever, and the Officer be praised for his love and patience!” one commenter wrote.

“A nice contrast to the all-too-common-lately posts of cops shooting dogs in the dog’s own yard. We need more like this officer!” another commenter wrote.

The Arlington Police Department implemented mandatory training two years ago to help officers identify the difference between aggressive and nonaggressive animals and know how to respond in situations when a dog is inside a home or roaming freely in a neighborhood.

The training was in response to dog shootings by officers in Arlington and other North Texas cities. In October 2011, an Arlington officer fatally shot a family dog while responding to a call about a boy being bitten. An internal inquiry later concluded that officer was justified in his use of force.

“This is exactly the type of compassion we love to see our employees exhibit and credit their good judgment and our significant investment that our organization has made in providing training to officers on how to deal with dogs,” Police Chief Will Johnson said in a news release.

Carter, who has owned large-breed dogs in the past, said the training helped him when it came to approaching and handling the stray. Officer Gibson’s tempting treat helped, too, he added.

“He was very dirty. Based on his cleanliness, he’s probably a decent dumpster diver,” Carter said. “He seemed awfully happy to get that protein bar.”

Carter, who said all he was trying to do was help a dog in need, was surprised by the attention.

Jeffery was taken to the Arlington animal shelter and reunited with his owner Friday morning, according to a tweet by Arlington police.

“You could tell he was friendly and open and he needed someone to get him off the street,” Carter said. “I’m glad the way it turned out.”

This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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