Woman talks friend out of suicide; police shoot her dog
Associated Press
Published June 20, 2003

MILWAUKEE -- A woman who had just talked a friend out of suicide had her pet cocker spaniel shot to death by a police officer called to her house.

Then the officer handed Valerie Mueller a $120 citation for having her dog, Sprite, outside without a leash.

``I will fight that ticket,'' said Mueller, 33, a special education teacher with Milwaukee Public Schools.

Since last weekend's incident, Mueller has filed a complaint with the city Fire and Police Commission.

At the time of the shooting, she and her dog were in the backyard around 2 a.m. Saturday waiting for police, but when squad cars arrived, Sprite bounded toward the officers.

Seconds later, the 6-year-old, 38-pound Sprite was shot in the head.

``He fell over and flinched,'' said Mueller, who was standing about 10 feet behind the dog when the officer fired. ``To see him fall over flinching and die right there, it's just hard to explain.''

The incident happened when police responded to the 911 call reporting a man contemplating suicide. By the time officers arrived, the man, Mueller's friend, had calmed down.

``I told them, 'The dog is harmless, don't hurt the dog,''' said Dave Williams, another friend of Mueller who witnessed the shooting. ``Three seconds later, they shot the dog.''

Police Chief Arthur Jones said his department is investigating to see whether the officer was in enough danger to warrant the actions.

Mueller said the officer, Chaquila Peavy, refused to identify herself after she shot Sprite, but Jones said Mueller and her friends never asked for the officer's name.

Jones said an officer can shoot a dog if the officer ``reasonably feels that they're in danger.''

As to whether an officer could feel threatened by a cocker spaniel, Jones said, ``it just depends on the individual and the circumstances.

``We're going to look into it, there's no question. There will be an investigation.''

Mueller retained attorney Alan Eisenberg, who filed a complaint Wednesday with the Fire and Police Commission, the first dog-shooting complaint the commission has received this year. Three people asked the commission to investigate police shootings of dogs in 2002, according to executive director David Heard.

Eisenberg also asked District Attorney E. Michael McCann for a criminal investigation.

Jill De Grave, education director for the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee, said police officers should have to prove pet killings are justified.

She suggested that the police department provide officers with training about dogs.

``Every police officer can benefit from training on handling dogs and reading behavior,'' De Grave said.

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