TORONTO — The owner of a dog that was allegedly run over by Ontario Provincial Police officers multiple times and then shot in Collingwood, Ont. Monday says she is “disgusted.”
Karen Sutherland, the owner of the 21-year-old German Shepherd-cattle dog mix named Merrick, told Global News she is still recovering from the incident.
“I’m kind of in shock right now, I’m having a hard time dealing with not only that she’s gone but just the way she went — it’s makes me just feel really, really bad for her,” Sutherland said.
“She was awesome, she was my sidekick. Everyone knew where Karen went, Merrick went. She was a sweet dog, never bit anyone, no aggression, she loves all animals, loves all dogs. She’s never, ever been a problem at all.”
Footage of the incident, which happened in a residential neighbourhood, has since gone viral after a witness posted it on Facebook Monday.
“Look he’s hitting it again. Oh my God. He just ran the coyote over,” a woman is heard saying in the video. The animal was originally thought to be a coyote but OPP confirmed it was a dog on Wednesday.
Sarah Leggett, the woman who posted the video recorded by a neighbour, said the incident took place around 10:30 p.m. ET. on election night.
“Horrible! I couldn’t believe it,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Sutherland said Merrick was in great shape physically, but was deaf and had declining eyesight. The dog had gone missing after a storm had uprooted a fence in Sutherland’s yard, which is how the dog escaped.
“We looked around for her and looked around for her and so we just went to bed and left the gate open because she’s not the kind of dog that would stray,” she said.
“So then I left the next morning and a friend of mine said that he had heard about a coyote getting hit by a car and then shot and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe that was Merrick.’ So I called them and was waiting for a response.
“But I thought maybe a cop accidentally hit her because it was rainy out and had to shoot her, I didn’t realize that the officer actually ran over her a couple of times on purpose so upon seeing that, (I was) just really upset about the way that she went like that — it’s just heartbreaking for me.”
Sutherland said police told her the officers were following proper protocol and that they will be speaking with her about the incident at a later time.
Global News has since learned through police sources that taking down an animal with the use of a vehicle is not considered proper police protocol.
“I’ve heard that he’s a dog owner as well and he feels really bad so I don’t know, I just think the whole thing is really, really crappy,” she said.
“The worst case scenario that you could really possibly have to have your dog go missing and then get run over by a police officer.”
Sutherland said she’s trying not to get too angry about the tragic death of her dog, adding that she would become overwhelmed with anger unless she tried to stay positive.
“I’m very upset about it, I’m just trying to be realistic and I’m not going to drag it out and ruin someone else’s life,” she said.
“I’m just disgusted and I just wish it didn’t happen because it kind of just, it’s just something that’s always going to be with me — the memory of that’s how my dog went after having her for that many years.”
News of the incident soon spread on social media with many calling the action cruel and inappropriate.
Police had initially said in a media release that the animal was a coyote and officers were responding to a report that it was aggressive and possibly rabid.
But OPP Acting Sergeant Lynda Cranney confirmed on Wednesday the animal was in fact a dog and an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Police had said the animal posed a danger to the public and other animals in the community, but did not clarify as to why the officers chose to run it over.
Sutherland said that despite losing her dog, she doesn’t want to see the officers punished too severely.
“I think that they’re having enough bad on them and I think something like this, if ever this did arise I don’t think it would happen again,” she said, adding that she hoped the police received more education for dealing with similar situations in the future.
The Ontario SPCA, who handles animal cruelty cases, said they are aware of the situation and has reached out to the OPP on the matter.
“The OPP has the same jurisdiction as the Ontario SPCA. The matter is in their hands at this time,” said OSPCA Inspector Brad Dewar.
An animal protection group said it is calling for a cruelty investigation into the death.
“We didn’t want to think this was real when it was sent to us,” says Michael Howie, spokesperson for The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals.
“But it is irrefutable at this point – the officer did in fact run over what we have been told was a coyote multiple times prior to using his sidearm to kill him in a more humane fashion.”
The group said cutbacks to Ministry of Natural Resources and downloading of responsibility is causing authorities to use other means to deal with wildlife calls.
“Police officers are highly trained and typically responsible individuals,” Howie added. “But their mandate should not include responding to wildlife calls.”
Questions were also raised earlier this summer when York Regional Police shot and killed a black bear wandering in a Newmarket, Ont. neighbourhood north of Toronto.
Police said they had no choice but to shoot the bear after it was cornered in a backyard and officers were waiting for Ministry of Natural Resources staff to arrive.
Many people took to social media to express their outrage over the bear’s death and to criticize police for not trying to subdue the animal first.
VIDEO: Aerial footage captured by a Global News helicopter shows the moment a police officer moved in and shot a black bear in the backyard of a Newmarket home. The bear eventually laid motionless under a tree. NOTE: No audio.
With files from Mark Carcasole