She lived as family pet, died as `vicious dog’
Post Independent Staff
Jordan Klein wants to know why New Castle police shot and killed his dog.
Jordan’s mom, Tammy Klein, doesn’t think her son’s dog deserved to die, even if the dog was running at large. She also wonders how her children will get over their newfound hatred of police.
New Castle Police Sgt. Edward Wilks says it’s “disturbing” the dog had to be shot. Had the dog worn a license or current vaccination tag, she would still be alive today, Wilks said.
According to police reports, New Castle police picked up the dog, Jenny, on Oct. 15. Later that day, police shot and killed Jenny on Silt Mesa, after the Silt police would not admit her into their pound.
“The dog had become aggressive,” Wilks said. “And the Silt pound doesn’t take vicious dogs. Garfield County doesn’t accept vicious dogs. Vets won’t take vicious dogs. We didn’t have any place to store it.”
Klein disputes the vicious dog allegation. “There’s no way Jenny acted the way they say she did,” Klein said.
In a letter to the editor, 10-year-old Jordan wrote, “They said my dog was very mean and tryed to bite them. Why did the police shoot my dog?”
Jenny was a 50-pound, 3-year-old black Labrador mix. The Kleins got Jenny for Jordan from an animal shelter when the dog was 1.
“Jordan has ADD. We thought it would be good for him to have a dog,” Klein said. “We all fell in love with Jenny the first time we saw her.”
The Kleins have lived in Castle Valley for six years. Calvin, the father, works as maintenance supervisor at Top of the Village in Snowmass Village. The other children are Alexander, 12; Dillon, 7; and Lexis, 3.
When the Kleins took Jenny out to bury her near the Buford Road on Oct. 16, the three older children stayed at home, but Lexis went along.
“That was a mistake,” Klein said.
“She understood more than we thought she would. She didn’t understand why we were putting Jenny in the ground, covering her with dirt.”
Ownership was unknown
Klein said she used to work nights, and stayed at home with Jenny and Lexis, but recently started a day job at SuperBowl.
She said Jenny must have gotten lonely during the day on Oct. 15, and jumped the fence. From talking with friends and neighbors, Klein determined Jenny met up with another family at a nearby park and followed them home.
Police reports say a Castle Valley resident called police to have the dog picked up at approximately 5 p.m. on Oct. 15.
Wilks said Jenny started biting at the police car’s back seat cage on the way to the Silt pound. Police called the veterinarian whose name was listed on the expired tag. “But there was no record of the dog,” Wilks said. “We had no idea who the dog’s owner was.”
When the New Castle police officer who picked up Jenny arrived at the Silt pound, a Silt officer came to assist. Jenny would not leave the car, and for the next hour, police tried several ways of getting her out.
A “bite stick,” which is a noose-like tool used to control dogs, wasn’t effective. “They couldn’t get it around the dog’s head,” Wilks said.
Police called the Garfield County animal control deputy for advice and a tranquilizer gun. “Garfield County doesn’t have one,” Wilks said.
Wilks said the New Castle officer was the only one on duty when the incident began. Wilks gave the officer several options over the phone as the episode continued. The officers discussed whether to use pepper spray, a stun gun or non-lethal bean bag gun on the dog, but decided against all three.
Wilks said all three non-lethal techniques can be used on humans, because humans will stop aggressive behavior when it becomes too painful to continue.
“Dogs don’t understand pain compliance,” Wilks said. “If you use these techniques, it just makes them more aggressive.”
Early in the confrontation, an off-duty New Castle officer also tried to coax Jenny from the car, but that didn’t work either.
Dog was vicious
About an hour into the standoff, the New Castle and Silt officers drove Jenny to a field north of town on Silt Mesa. Wilks said he and the other officers considered letting Jenny go when they reached the field, but that option proved problematic as well.
“We can’t let a vicious dog go,” Wilks said. “We’d be responsible for it. What if it started running toward houses?”
Wilks said Colorado state statutes are clear on how vicious animals should be handled, and compared the situation to one where a bear trapped a second time by the Colorado Division of Wildlife must be killed.
“Vicious animals do not have the right to exist in Colorado,” Wilks said. “The state puts the safety of its citizens ahead of animals.”
When the officers arrived in the field with Jenny, they still weren’t sure what they were going to do, Wilks said. The officers opened both patrol car doors, and one stuck a shotgun barrel in Jenny’s face.
“It started chewing on the barrel,” Wilks said.
The dog then left the car, and charged one of the officers, Wilks said.
An officer shot the dog once. After the dog was down, an officer shot her in the head.
Jenny didn’t `deserve to get shot’
The next day, Wilks explained to the Kleins there was nothing else the police could do, and the officers acted appropriately.
He also said if the dog were wearing a New Castle tag or a current rabies vaccination tag, had not been loose in the first place, or was not vicious, she would not have been shot.
KIein said she thinks her dog was shot because police thought she was a stray.
“I want this to be an example,” Klein said. “Next time they pick up a dog like this, the police should stop and think there’s a family out there behind that dog. Don’t think nobody is going to miss it.”
She admits she was wrong to allow Jenny to get out of the yard.
“But the dog doesn’t deserve to get shot,” she said.
“I’ve beaten myself up over this. The dog deserved to be picked up, but did she deserve to be shot? I don’t think so,” Klein said.
While the Klein family grieves of their lost pet, Tammy worries about how her children will relate to police in the future. She’s worried about hateful remarks her children have made about police since the shooting.
“That’s not right,” Klein said. “We need police. I want my kids to be able to trust police again.”
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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