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Albion woman calls for dog at large protocol change

October 6, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer (dalexander@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

After a Marshall County Sheriff's deputy shot Lisa Hurd's English bulldog Penny, she decided something needed to change.

Hurd has begun an online petition calling for the city of Albion and the Marshall County Sheriff's Office to re-examine how deputies respond to dog at large calls.

"My kids were there - right there when it happened," Hurd said. "But I am not pointing the finger at the city."

Article Photos

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
English bulldog Penny, shown here, had to be euthanized in August because of a gunshot wound she suffered when a Marshall County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot her when responding to a dog at large call. Penny’s owner, Lisa Hurd, has started an online petition to prompt the sheriff’s office to re-draft its policy when deputies respond to dog at large calls.

Her 3-year-old daughter Payton is now terrified of police officers, which is difficult for Hurd since she wants her children to feel the police are there to help.

Hurd believes Deputy Demorris Dean, the officer who responded to a call that her three dogs were at large in August, acted unreasonably when he shot Penny. The sheriff's office needs to re-evaluate its policy, she said.

Following the shooting, the Marshall County Sheriff's Office began an investigation of Dean's use of deadly force. The sheriff's office exonerated him. Dean received no disciplinary action for shooting the dog, which the Hurds had to euthanize because of the injury it suffered.

Chief Deputy Burt Tecklenburg said he conducted the investigation immediately after the shooting and was unable to establish Dean acted outside the sheriff's office policy when he shot the dog. He said the sheriff's office policy allow deputies to use deadly force whenever they feel reasonably threatened.

Although the shooting is unfortunate, he said, deputies shoot to stop, not to kill.

That explanation, Hurd said, is a flimsy one. Dean could have used non-lethal force.

Sheriff's deputies carry pepper spray but do not carry stun guns.

As part of his investigation, Tecklenburg said, he interviewed several of Hurd's neighbors. Many told Tecklenburg that the dog was vicious and regularly harassed passersby. His findings corroborated Dean's claim that Penny and the Hurds' other two dogs acted aggressively when he approached the home, he said.

"If I had 20 different people telling me that was a harmless little puppy that would have thrown up some red flags" he said.

Several callers complained to the T-R that Hurd's dog was aggressive. Many called it a "menace." None of those callers were willing to go on record.

Hurd has been cited only once before for dog at large. The court dropped those charges.

But Hurd said the Albion City Council is taking her petition the wrong way, and the city is taking it out on her. She said several people have told her both the Albion City Clerk, Karen Betts, and city maintenance man have been dissuading people from signing her petition because they feel the dog was a menace.

According to police records, Kathi Abrahams called police the day Penny was shot. She is the wife of Albion City Council member Robert Abrahams.

Hurd said the council is pushing the citation when it shouldn't to validate Dean shooting her dog and because of a misperception that her dogs are dangerous. The negativity toward her because of her petition has made her feel like the city is bullying her.

Jeffery Liberty, of Longmont Colo., said he called Albion City Hall just to get information on how to contact the mayor to voice an opinion on the petition when the city clerk launched into a long-winded diatribe on how horrible the dog was.

"She went on and on and on to me about how many times the dog had bitten people," he said.

An independent inquiry to the city clerk elicited a similar response.

Hurd said the issue escalated when it was brought to the council.

Following the shooting, the city issued Hurd a citation for dog at large, which it later dismissed, court documents show. The court then re-instated that charge after having dropped it.

At its Sept. 25 meeting, the council discussed whether to proceed with issuing Hurd the citation, despite the topic not being on the council's agenda.

The Open Meetings Act requires city councils to provide public notice if it is going to act on a matter. Members of the council and the city clerk insist that, although the council reached a "consensus," its members did not vote on the issue.

City Council member Robert Abrahams did not abstain from the conversation on whether to pursue the citation.

City councils have authority to change ordinances, but do not have the authority to overturn specific citations.

Albion City Attorney Barry Kaplan was unavailable for comment at press time as to why he brought the topic to the city council.

Hurd's petition, which can be found on change.org, had 1,510 electronic signatures as of Friday morning.

 
 

 

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