BRATTLEBORO—The shooting of a dog on the Green Street School’s playground on March 21 has reignited some citizens’ concerns about communicating with the Brattleboro Police Department and undermined their faith in the town’s response.
According to an internal investigation led by Brattleboro Police Capt. Michael Fitzgerald, two officers responded to a call at the Crowell Lot on Western Avenue that a dog appeared sick and dying.
The shooting prompted two citizens’ complaints to the BPD, and a request to discuss the incident at the Selectboard meeting on May 1.
At the meeting, speakers expressed frustration about the official handling of the shooting, anger at the lack of communication from the police, sadness about the dog’s inhumane death, and fear that the officers’ actions underscored a deeper issue of violence in Brattleboro.
The Selectboard listened to citizens with little comment, having already accepted the police department’s handling of the matter.
In an April 27 memo to the Selectboard, Police Chief Eugene Wrinn wrote, “Over the course of the incident, the initial responding officer made a decision using his years of training and experience that it was not safe to allow the dog to remain unsecured, and as he approached the dog, the animal — which is described as a pit bull — began to back up and growl at him.”
According to the memo, officers followed the dog down the hill to the playground at Green Street School. One officer described the dog’s fur as patchy and falling out. Earlier, the report noted, this same officer accompanied Animal Control Officer Kathy Burrows to deal with a suspected rabid fox.
The memo states that, once on the playground, officers positioned themselves between the dog and members of the public who “self-evacuated” once they realized what was happening.
The officers waited until the people left the playground. One of the officers shot the dog twice.
In his memo, Wrinn wrote that the officers should have followed up with members of the public and animal control.
“I am in total agreement with Captain Fitzgerald that it is unfortunate that the police needed to take the life of the animal,” wrote Wrinn.
“More thought and effort should have been placed into dealing with the after-effects and making immediate contact with citizens in the area, as the officers felt they did not have the time and opportunity to explain what was going to happen before the actual shooting.”
Wrinn continued, “Officers also should have followed up with Green Street School staff to make them aware of the incident. It appears that Department officers may have had contact and/or incidents involving this animal in the recent past, and the information was not properly forwarded to animal control officer Burrows to follow up.”
“These issues will be discussed with staff to insure that similar incidents in the future or situations needing better communications may be handled more effectively.”
Annie Guion, executive director of the Windham County Humane Society, questioned the police’s training and authority.
Guion characterized the shooting as inhumane and asked to see the town’s files, including any test results that determined if the dog was sick. She also questioned if officials had checked to see if the dog had a microchip to help locate its owner.
In a separate interview, Guion said she had a conversation with Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray last week and will meet with Wrinn and Town Manager Barbara Sondag to see the files on May 11.
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