Dog's Death Tragic, But Not Criminal

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and Upper Gwynedd Police Chief David Duffy announce that no criminal charges will be filed in connection with the shooting and killing of a canine house pet in Upper Gwynedd Township on January 16, 2009.

On January 16, 2009 shortly before 5:00 PM, Upper Gwynedd Township Police received a report that a dog had been shot and killed by an off duty Tempe, Arizona police officer at The Reserves at Gwynedd. This development is a 55 and over residential complex located in Upper Gwynedd, Montgomery County.

After arriving on the scene, officers learned that the son of a Reserve resident was visiting from out of state and he shot a dog outside of one of the buildings. The dog, an Akita mix named Bruce, had been taken by his owner to the Gwynned Veterinary Hospital.

Since the animal and his owner were no longer at the scene, Upper Gwynedd Police Sgt. Steve Gillen then proceeded to speak with the man who called 911 and found that this was the same man who shot the animal.

The shooter spoke with police in detail about the incident. In addition, he provided them with a comprehensive written statement regarding the events. The man reported that he was a sworn police officer in Tempe Arizona where he had worked for two years. He stated that his father is a one and a half year resident of The Reserve and he was visiting his father's home for a week for the holidays. As a sworn police officer, he advised that he is permitted to carry a concealed weapon. On that date, he described his activities and how he came back home from walking his father's dog, Lulu, around the development.

The man stated that prior to leaving the home to walk Lulu, his father warned him about a large brown and white spotted dog in the neighborhood that he said was known to be aggressive towards other dogs. The man described his route around the neighborhood and told police that he believed he saw the dog his father described while walking around the complex. He passed this Akita mix and his owner (later confirmed to be owner Stanley Rosenblatt and his brown and white Akita mix, Bruce) briefly while they both were on their walks. After he concluded his walk, the man proceeded to return to the building where his father lives.

The man described how he approached the outside door to the building and the same brown and white dog came running out of the double doors to the building's lobby. Although the man saw that the animal was attached to a retractable leash, the dog's owner was not in sight. The man backed up and pulled his dog Lulu backwards in an effort to get away from the approaching animal.

It appeared to the man that the other dog was attacking Lulu and had jumped onto her back. At this point, the man drew his firearm.
He was still unable to see the other dog's owner or anyone in control of the animal. The man moved backwards with his own dog as the other dog continued to approach Lulu aggressively. At this point, the man fired three shots, all of which struck the dog that was attacking his dog. At this point, the dog's owner emerged from the double doors of the building, yelling at the shooter, before leaving to get care for his dog. The dog that was shot, Bruce, later died at the Veterinary Hospital.

Upper Gwynedd Township Police conducted a thorough and detailed investigation of the incident in cooperation with the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. Police spoke to witnesses at the scene who had information to provide. They spoke to individuals about the dog's past demeanor with other dogs. The shooter was fully cooperative and provided the handgun he used in the incident, a Glock 23 pistol, to the police. Police investigated the background of the shooter and learned that he was a Tempe, Arizona Police Officer who is both qualified and approved to carry a firearm whether on or off duty. They found he possesses a current Arizona concealed weapons permit.

An examination of the scene revealed that although the dog was attached to a retractable leash or "flexi-lead," at the time he was shot, the animal was approximately 25 feet away from his owner and on the opposite side of a double glass door. The shooter had backed away approximately seventeen feet from the door before firing his weapon. Based upon the circumstances, it is reasonable to conclude that the shooter believed the dog was not under the actual control of any person.

The District Attorney reviewed various statutes relating to the possession of firearms. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a reciprocity agreement with the State of Arizona whereby a person possessing a permit to carry a concealed weapon in one state is permitted also to carry it in the other participating state. In addition, United States Code Section 926b permits qualified law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons nationwide. Therefore, District Attorney Ferman has determined that the shooter was lawfully permitted to possess his firearm at the time and location of the incident.

In addition, the District Attorney reviewed Pennsylvania statutes relating to Dogs and Cats. Section 3 P.S. §459-305 pertaining to the confinement of dogs sets forth that  "it shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep such dog either: (1) Confined within the premise of the owner; (2) firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premise on which it is secured; or (3) under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in hunting, exhibition or field training.

Furthermore, Dogs and Cats Section 3 P.S. §459-501, governs the killing of dogs. Under this statute, "any person may kill any dog which he sees in the act of pursuing, wounding, or killing any domestic animal." It additionally provides that "there shall be no liability on such persons in damages or otherwise for such killing."

The Upper Gwynedd Township Police investigation revealed that despite being attached to a retractable leash or "flexi-lead", the dog was approximately 25 feet away from his owner and on the opposite side of a double glass door while he appeared to be attacking another animal. The dog's owner was not visible to the shooter.

The District Attorney concludes that when the dog came running out of the building and ran towards the shooter he was not under the reasonable control of Mr. Rosenblatt. After backing up to avoid an attack upon his own dog Lulu, the shooter reasonably believed that both he and Lulu were being pursued and about to be attacked. Accordingly, he was permitted, under the law, to use his firearm to shoot the approaching animal.

Based upon the foregoing, no criminal charges shall be filed in connection with this incident.

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