‘Puppycide’: 2 Detroit cops kill 100 dogs during tenure, investigation reveals
The ‘destruction of animal’ reports, obtained by Reason, provide evidence of what critics are calling ‘puppycide.’ They reveal that at least 46 dogs were killed in 2015 and the first eight months of 2016 – despite just one officer being bitten by a dog during that period, according to the records.
The department has found itself at the center of numerous lawsuits due to its officers’ trigger-happy behavior, one of which was filed by Plaintiff Nikita Smith, who claims officers killed her three pit bulls while executing a narcotics search warrant in January. She claims her dogs were not misbehaving, and that she told the officers she was putting the dogs away. She placed two in the basement and one in the bathroom.
When one of the dogs escaped and sat down next to Smith, officers reportedly opened fire and killed it, before charging into the basement and shooting a second pit bull that was pregnant and backed into a corner. They then moved on to the bathroom, where one officer asked “Should we do that one too?” before opening fire through a closed door.
Although the officers claim they were approached by “vicious” pit bulls at the house, Smith’s attorney Chris Olsen has called their bluff, referring to photos from the scene, which he says resemble the horror film The Shining.
“...The dog is in the back of the bathroom and just covered in blood. But their (officers’) story is that the dog opened the door itself and was coming to eat them. The problem is the door handle wasn’t a latch. It was a knob. That’s how fu**ed up it is. That’s their story in federal court.”
According to Olsen, one of the officers involved in shooting Smith’s dogs, William Morrison, had shot 39 canines dogs prior to that fateful day.
“That’s a staggering number, and that’s just one officer out of six involved in that case. Someone who’s killed 39 dogs in the course of duty... is really hunting,” he said.
While the number is indeed staggering, it appears that Morrison isn’t alone. In fact, another officer has far surpassed him, reportedly killing a whopping 67 dogs during his tenure. That officer’s name and badge number were redacted from the reports, though he or she reportedly works for the department’s Major Violators Unit. The 67th killing was detailed in a report following an April 14, 2016 narcotics raid.
‘Don’t kill my dogs’
Another lawsuit was filed in August after officers carried out a narcotics raid that involved an undercover going to a person’s home and attempting to buy marijuana. Although the suspect refused to sell, police still went ahead with the search anyway.
Nicole Motyka and Joel Castro said their three pit bulls were behind a large wooden barrier in the kitchen when police entered their home.
Castro claims he repeatedly told the officers, “All I have is weed. Don’t kill my dogs.”
His plea was unsuccessful, however. The officers shot and killed two of the dogs, one of which was a puppy.
The officers’ testimonies on the incident differ. One says the barrier was still in place when the dogs were shot, and another says the dogs charged when the owner moved the barrier out of the way.
Motyka claims the dogs were shot while the barrier was still in place.
“I don’t want anything to do with the Detroit police anymore,” Motyka said. “You grow up being taught these are the people you’re supposed to trust, and then they come in and kill your family. I have no love for them. None. They probably sleep well at night. We don’t.”
Settlements & missing records
The department has settled at least two expensive lawsuits involving the shooting of canines. One of these included a $100,000 payout to a local resident whose “very friendly” French mastiff was shot and killed while chained up outside his house.
Another case, which involved a dog that was shot in the face while running up to an officer, ended in an $8,000 settlement. That dog ultimately survived.
While the newest revelations are both shocking and replete with accounts of police abusing and murdering family pets, Reason stressed that at least seven incidents documented in lawsuits and media reports were not found in the records that were released.
The Detroit Law Department, which handles public records requests for the city, said it never received those reports, which means the police department either failed to find them or intentionally hid them – a move that would violate Michigan law. Consequently, the actual number of dogs shot by Detroit police is unknown, and potentially much higher than records indicate.