With two incidents this month involving police shooting aggressive dogs, Starke County Sheriff Oscar Cowen emphasized the need for dog owners to keep their animals safely detained, be it by chaining them outside or keeping them securely in the home. He said it’s not always black and white when it comes to identifying vicious animals, and it comes down to the dog’s owner to ensure they cannot attack visitors.
“When they feel that there’s danger out there, obviously we know that dogs will protect their home, their masters, their family. They have to restrain their dogs, whether fenced up, housed up, or chained up,” said Cowen.
While this kind of incident does not occur often, Cowen said it’s a very real danger every day. Officers are often required to serve court papers at residences, and it’s not uncommon that these households will house dogs that can be perceived as dangerous. When a dog rushes out of a home toward a police officer, Cowen said that officer has the right to protect himself.
“You really just don’t know how dogs are going to react. I can’t tell you it’s safe for me to go up to any door when I know there’s a dog in or around that home, and a lot of the times I won’t. That’s part of the job of the sheriff’s department, to serve papers, and so that’s the duty that my officers have to deal with. When they feel they’re being attacked, I feel that they’re justified by protecting themselves,” said Cowen.
The responsibility falls onto the dog owner to keep the animal inside the home, securely chained up outside, or within a fence that the dog cannot scale. Cowen said he’s sad that the dog was killed, but the situation had the potential to turn deadly had the officer not reacted.
“But it is your responsibility to maintain and detain your animals, especially dogs, so that they do not harm anyone else. For the dog to just be able to come charging out the door, either he has a door that’s not very secure, or just somehow the dog was able to get out, and pursue my officer. So, I feel bad for the dog owner, but on the other hand, I’m glad that I’m not down at the hospital overseeing my officer being treated,” said Cowen.
Cowen said he has been bitten by aggressive animals while on the job, and he’s fortunate that he has not been seriously injured while trying to serve papers. Law enforcement officers take risks every day trying to protect and serve their community, and Cowen said they need to defend themselves if approached by a dog that appears to be aggressive, as it is better to be safe than sorry.