Chief: Good can come of this

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 5, 2007

By Mark Wilhelm

Special to the Salisbury Post

After reading the article in the Dec. 27 edition of the Post entitled “Doggone lucky pup survives busy road,” I feel compelled to respond with the other side of the story, which I believe was omitted.

On Dec. 26 at 10:33 a.m., the Salisbury Police Department received a call of a dog being struck by a vehicle on Jake Alexander Boulevard near Harrison Road. A patrol officer was dispatched to the location at 10:34 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 10:45 a.m.

Upon arriving on the scene, the officer observed the dog lying in the roadway. He observed that the dog was bleeding from the mouth, flesh missing from the rear quarters, and the dog was not able to stand. One of the original callers to the police stated that the dog’s rear legs were broken.

The officer notified the on-duty supervisor of the dog’s condition and further stated that, in his opinion, the dog was suffering and was beyond repair. At that point, the duty supervisor instructed the officer to await the arrival of a second officer who would assist him in moving the dog out of the roadway and to a location where they could “put down” the dog without endangering anyone. While this may seem cruel, it is our opinion that this is more humane than to allow the animal to suffer. The article in the newspaper stated that the officer was going to drag the dog to the side of the road and leave it there to die, which is not true.

In the meantime, several people had stopped at the scene in addition to those on the scene when the officer arrived. One of the ladies was upset that the dog was going to be put down. I agree that this seems very harsh, but police officers have to make tough decisions, and the officer had determined at this point that the dog was not able to move and, in his opinion, was suffering.

The lady on the scene was given the opportunity to transport the animal to a veterinarian and to assume financial responsibility for the treatment, to which she declined.

Someone on the scene called a family member who works at Rowan Animal Hospital, who in turn called Jane Hartness of the Rowan County Humane Society. Ms. Hartness contacted the Police Department and advised the dispatcher that she had a member of the organization on the way to retrieve the dog and transport it to Rowan Animal Hospital. The volunteers arrived, transported the dog to the hospital and, fortunately, the animal was not seriously injured.

While it is obvious now that the officer’s opinion of the seriousness of the injuries was not accurate, I cannot find fault with his decision at the time. I was not on the scene; however, I have been in similar situations in the past and had to be the one to make that unpopular decision.

I have always been taught that something good can come out of something bad, and this holds true with this case. The dog’s life was spared, and it appears that the dog is going to make a full recovery. In addition, I have been in contact with Ms. Hartness from the Humane Society. She has volunteered to provide training to all of our officers on “assessing animal injuries in order to determine if the animal can be saved.”

The Salisbury Police Department has worked with the Humane Society for a long time, and I am confident that they can provide some much-needed training to our officers. Police officers get no joy out of making the decision to end an animal’s life, especially a dog. We depend on our K-9s to keep our officers and our citizens safe and to help us out in many other ways.

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Mark Wilhelm is chief of the Salisbury Police Department.