Dowell, Illinois officials give their side of the story in death of family dog

June 11, 2013

Last night those involved in the May 21 death of a family dog named Boots, came together in a city council meeting. This meeting was attended by owner Mike Tilley, his 17-year-old daughter Brittany, and several concerned citizens who had heard about the case.

The meeting became very vocal, including almost an hour of arguing with council members, police and the Tilleys. In the end, the Tilleys were removed from the meeting and the matter considered resolved.

But was it? Mayor Dennis Steward gave his excuses for making the decision to kill Boots. He defended their actions by saying animal control sometimes doesn’t arrive on scene for two or three hours.

This excuse gives the impression they either don’t have a very good animal control officer, or their system is very poor. Animal control should arrive within 15 minutes unless the location is out in the middle of nowhere, which wasn’t the case with Boots.

A statement was read on how Dowell Officer Martin Smith responded on a call saying a dog was attacking neighbors. When a friend of the family offered to catch Boots, he was told he couldn’t. Mayor Stewart said in an interview with WSIL TV “If I would have told anyone else in the village to go try to corral this dog and they would have gotten bit by the dog, then the city would be liable,”

That doesn’t make sense because the night of the shooting, the friend willing to capture the dog was told by the mayor that he was going to do things “his way.” That statement may be true legally concerning the city’s liability, but it’s unlikely he was thinking about liability at the time.

The investigation by the Jackson County State’s Attorney Mike Carr determined the shooting justified because the officer tried to catch the dog. Carr stated “It is unfair to second guess how this officer should have handled the matter in determining whether he should face criminal prosecution for his conduct even if I thought what he did could have been handled a better way,”

When Boots lunged, the officer shot him. Isn’t there a difference between trying to catch a dog and containing a dog. Any dog is going to be defensive, should a stranger appear threatening. Containing would have required more effort, such as using pepper spray, a Taser, a catch pole, or even waiting on animal control.

Brittany Tilley wanted to know why she, as a minor, had to come home to find her dog dead in her yard. Mayor Stewart told her he left the body so they could bury Boots at home. Count yourself lucky, Brittany. Most of the time the police seize the dog, which prevents a necropsy from being performed.

It would have built a stronger case had Boots been taken because that would have definitely been a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Seizure of property, which dogs are considered, is against the law.

So another case of a dog shot by police when other non-lethal options were available comes to a close. Police will not be disciplined and town officials will not lose their position in officer. We can safely say Boots death accomplished one thing. It shows yet another tragedy where a dog was murdered when other options were available.

Each dog murdered, whether in Illinois of New York or California, shows police are in fact protected by the badge. We are all learning one death at a time that our pets are not safe around those hired to protect and to serve.

Readers, did this end fairly? What do you think should have happened in this case? Your comments are welcome.…




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