Perinton, N.Y. - Protesters, including animal rights activists and pet owners, are taking up the cause of Diablo-the pitbull shot and killed by deputies at his Perinton home Friday night.
“Pulling the trigger shouldn’t be the first line of defense,” says Mary Hurly who is a member of Pitty Love, a rescue organization for pitbulls. She has three dogs and today held up a homemade sign at a rally outside the Monroe County Jail.
About 60 people attended the demonstration. All many of them knew for sure about Diablo, the dog who was killed, is that he was someone’s pet.
Some brought their own dogs to make a point. “I’ve always had dogs,” says John Castellano. “To see a dog shot unnecessarily on its own property- five foot from its own garage- these officers went way into the yard,” he says.
Wilfredo Cosme came with his dog Deebo. “It makes you think-are you going to be next? Are you going to find him dead on the curb,” he asks adding “What protection do they have?”
Since 2009, Rochester Police Department Officers have shot at 78 dogs, killing 30 of them. More than one-third of the shootings occurred when police were executing a search warrant – in some cases bursting into a home.
Yet most suburban police agencies face a much different scenario.
Diablo was inside the open garage at his own home and restricted by an invisible fence. When two sheriff’s deputies walked up the dark driveway on Whitney Street its likely dog and man startled each other.
With split seconds to make a decision, deputies relied on protocol to treat a dog running at them as though it were a person running at them with a knife. They fired four shots.
“We live in Penfield, it could have been any one of our dogs,” says Mary Hurley. “All three of our dogs have run down the driveway with tails wagging to greet someone.”
Most police agencies do not give officers specific training in how to deal with dogs that may be family pets. Animal activists say a small amount of knowledge on how to read or assess on dog as you come on its property can make all the difference.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals police encounter dogs on one-third of the properties they visit. Being able to better assess whether a dog is a specific threat could make a difference.
Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn says the investigation will look into what happened, but will also address the issue being raised about family pets.
“Is there something we may need to change or should change to improve our performance? We’ll look into that too,” he says.
The investigation is expected to be completed this week.