Letter: Abuse unacceptable in any context

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2021

The disturbing video footage of a Salisbury police officer lifting a K-9 named Zuul off the ground by his leash, choking him, slamming him against a vehicle and then punching him demands a response that involves transparency, accountability and more.

We agree with Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins’ demand for answers. Why did this abuse not come to light until months after the video was apparently recorded? How much other abuse is occurring off camera? How long did Zuul remain with the officer who abused him before the officer was “administratively separated” from the dog? Why was the dog examined by a veterinarian only now, far too late, after the public expressed outrage? And why, after first attempting to sweep this abuse under the rug, is the police chief now trying to excuse it as “out of context,” suggesting that abusive treatment is not out of the ordinary in the department’s K-9 unit?

Abuse of the sort seen in the video is unacceptable in any context. What’s needed is a critical investigation into the way police dogs are treated — during training as well as on and off duty — and for anyone who harms them to be held accountable, including by being charged with cruelty to animals, if appropriate.

Dogs do their best to please their guardians and to understand what is required of them, and they’re extremely loyal. The cruelty inflicted on Zuul in the video is a violation of that trust — and likely a violation of state law, too.

— Daphna Nachminovitch

Norfolk, Va.

Editor’s note: The writer is an employee of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).