Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Tragedy of Finn: An Open Letter to Parliament

Esteemed and Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

I respectfully write to you today as an American who has enjoyed my time spent upon your shores. Your people are extraordinary. Your landscapes are delightful. Your cities, towns, and villages are welcoming and warm.

In my time there I have worked with several of your police agencies. As a Retired Police Lieutenant (Full Inspector in your system) I have trained and assisted within my specialty of dangerous and aggressive dogs.

During my career in the world of policing I have been paired with and worked beside many K9 police handlers and their partners, in the UK, the USA, Canada, and many other locations. That is why I am writing you today.

In October 2016 PC Dave Wardell and K9 Finn responded to a burglary call and were faced with a fleeing criminal subject. Finn was deployed to apprehend the subject, a sixteen year old young man. The young man, armed with a large knife, brutally attacked K9 Finn, stabbing him through the chest causing what was nearly a mortal wound. Despite his injury, Finn hung on and restrained the man, allowing his arrest and eventual conviction.

The issue is that in the UK, the attack upon brave K9 Finn was treated merely as criminal damage to property. The subject, a young man old enough to make such a severe choice as to use violence against a Police Officer and strong enough to plunge a large knife completely through a German Shepherd's chest, was only sentenced upon conviction to four months confinement, four months community service and a very minor fine and court costs.

This is unacceptable, especially from a nation as aware and proactive regarding the treatment of animals. It was the Brambell Commission of 1965 that, in the UK, established the Five Freedoms for all animals--a standard for care and compassion that has set the standard for the rest of the world. Acknowledgement of the need for humane and proper treatment of animals, from pets to agricultural livestock, is present to this very moment as shown by the current concern about the importation of chickens from the US that are raised and slaughtered in manners inconsistent with the high standards of the United Kingdom.

Yet this valiant Police Working Dog is, in sentencing, considered no more valuable than a notebook carried by an officer, and Finn's near-deadly wound considered no more serious than breaking the bulb in the officer's torch needed to light his way in the dark.

In the United States, Police Working Dogs are considered what they truly are: partners, guardians, and Police Officers themselves. These animals place themselves in the way of harm daily, doing many jobs that would be impossible without them. I myself am in direct debt to a brave Police K9 named Titan who, when my officers and I were threatened by an armed drug dealer, was deployed and intercepted not only the armed suspect, but the first bullet that the criminal fired at our team. Titan took the bullet and died, allowing five human officers to go home that night. Five officers with friends and families, children and spouses, returned home safely due to the sacrifice of Police Officer Titan of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Jacksonville, FL.

Titan was not mere property. Had the criminal survived, he would have faced severe penalty in Court for killing Titan, as Titan was considered a Police Officer. The man would have faced five years imprisonment for killing, or even for wounding, Titan. The grave injury to Finn would have  resulted in five years imprisonment if it had occurred here.

In the US we are, often justly, criticized for using levels of force that would be unacceptable in the UK. We carry guns, and we use them. We face criticism for actions perceived as militaristic and excessive. We are accused of violating the rights of people based upon racial profiling. Some of these accusations are true. Yet we do some things correctly . In particular, we acknowledge and recognize the value and position of Police Working Dogs as they go about their days saving human lives. We see that they are more than just a piece of property, and that injury to them is far different than breaking the bulb in an officers torch.

Mistakes have been made. Yet mistakes are points from which progress can begin. As the author Zoonie Yamada stated in Essay Lessons for Adults: "If you focus on correcting mistakes, then avoiding failure becomes important. If you focus on growing from mistakes, then even failure is a step forward."

The existence of mistakes is part of life. Making them is inevitable. What we do with them on the other hand, as renowned American poet Robert Frost said about divergent roads in the wood, makes all the difference.

It is time to step forward to take the correct road. In the case of Finn and PC Wardell, the criminal justice system of the United Kingdom failed. The young man who attacked and caused dire injury to K9 Finn was given a poorly aimed slap on the wrist. Although hopefully Finn will live with Retired PC Wardell in peace for the rest of is life, the damage has been done-not just to Finn, but to each and every brave and dedicated Police Working Dog in the UK and each and every one of their committed and compassionate handlers.

You as Members of Parliament, creators of legislation in the United Kingdom and guardians of your charges, have an opportunity to remedy this. Declare that Police Working Dogs in the United Kingdom are more than mere property. Recognize their sacrifices, admit that they are essential to the safety of not only your body of Members but of all citizens of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and create clear and enhanced penalties for criminal acts against these four-legged Officers. Take this mistake and turn it into a step forward.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Very Respectfully,

Lt. James W. Crosby (Ret), M.Sci.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office

Jacksonville, FL USA

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

First steps in Ontario!

Now that the news has been released, I can comment on a project that took three weeks of my time in Ontario.

Over a year ago, a group of dogs was seized from an accused major dog fighter in southern Ontario. the Ontario SPCA had them in custody, and under the laws of the Province, would have normally destroyed all of them.
The facility at Dog Tales, King City, Ontario.

But two dedicated dog activists, Rob Scheinberg and his wife Danielle, decided that these guys deserved a chance at real lives, free from abuse. They contacted Jennifer Bluhm of the Ontario SPCA and a team of lawyers, and the fight for the Ontario 21 began.

Thankfully, Ms. Bluhm was not the unreasonable dog hater that some feared: Jennifer is a compassionate and caring leader that had no desire to needlessly kill a large groups of dogs. She was, however, bound by the idiotic breed ban present in Ontario law, and as such had to fulfill her duties....BUT...she could do so compassionately and allowed the legal process to proceed, while taking extreme efforts to keep the dogs safe, humanely kept, and in the best shape possible given the strain on her agency.

Now, after almost two years of dealing with an often painfully slow legal system and hurdles that I can't begin to go into, thanks to Rob and Danielle and Jennifer and the legal team and a host of compassionate people that cannot be publicly thanked but who kept the dogs safe and well, the dogs are coming out of Ontario, alive and in better shape than they were when they were taken into custody.

Their next step is coming to Florida where I will be working with friends in Rescue to place some, and with fellow experts to rehab just as many others as we possibly can. I won't reveal their exact destination out of both concerns for security and to not steal the spotlight from the rest of the team. But I look forward to seeing my four legged friends as they enter rehab and hopefully become family members.

This may sound like a minor achievement, and some may question why we are spending time and effort here, but these dogs ARE the Canadian Vicktory dogs. These dogs ARE the first for the Province of Ontario to get a fair chance at a new start. This case is a really big deal, and I am so honored to have been chosen to take part in this effort.

I am not saying we won't have bumps along the way. These dogs, like any fighting dogs, have had a rough life. The dogs that have been fought (and I can attest that they have) suffered a life of active, horrible abuse to force them to attack and destroy fellow dogs against their natural desires to be social and exist in peace. There are tough times ahead for all of us.

There will still be rainy days for these guys...

But we will try our best and give them the shot they never would have had. Some may not make it because they may just be too damaged. That is a fact of life when you are a victim. For those, perhaps permanent safe sanctuary may be the answer. But I have faith and have always had a profound respect and amazement at the level of forgiveness dogs can show.

More on the progress of these guys as they come "home" to their new lives.

The rainbow over the road as I left Toronto was a hint.

Peace to all, and remember that compassion and patience can change the world, even if for one person or one dog at a time.