Office of Citizen Complaints
Reference: OCC #725-98; 0347-98; DGO 6.07; 6.15; DM-12
Subject: Animal Control Techniques and Caring for Animals of Arrestees
Recommendation: The Office of Citizen Complaints recommends that the San Francisco Police Department:
(1) provide written guidelines and improve training on appropriate animal control techniques to ensure that officers are prepared
(a) to assess whether or not a domesticated animal poses a danger to officers or other persons and
(b) to handle a threatening domesticated animal correctly.
(2) issue a Department Bulletin to inform officers that the City's Department of Animal Care and Control must be contacted when an arrestee has an animal in his or her possession and is unable to arrange alternative care for the animal;
(3) invite appropriate personnel from the City's Department of Animal Care and Control, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other expert institutions to participate in training SFPD sworn personnel, pursuant to (1) and (2) above.
Two officers were properly admitted into complainant's residence to investigate a robbery. Shortly thereafter, complainant arrived with her puppy; also present were two other adults, a mentally and physically disabled child, and an infant.
Confusion ensued in the wake of two events: the disabled child touched the an officer's leg and the puppy began yelping. The officer pulled his gun and threatened to shoot the puppy. The officer later reported that he believed complainant had elicited an attack response from the puppy. Although the complainant was arrested for aggravated assault against a police officer with a deadly weapon - namely the puppy - the officers left the puppy at the scene.
Three days after the incident, a video recording was made of the puppy encountering two other strangers in the residence. A San Francisco County Animal Care and Control Specialist analyzed the video and reported that the puppy is not vicious, nor is it trained or able to respond to commands to attack. The criminal charges against complainant were dismissed.
During the course of OCC investigation of another case, it came to OCC's attention that the SFPD does not have a written policy on handling animals of arrestees. Discussion with SFPD's Vicious and Dangerous Animals Unit reinforced the need for a Department Bulletin and officer training on this subject.
Investigators: Eileen Grady and Karol Heppe
Prepared by: RIVER GINCHILD ABEJE, Policy and Outreach Specialist
Approved by: MARY C. DUNLAP, Director
Date: August 31, 1999
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