Petition seeks apology from Denver police for preventing neighbors from helping injured dog

DPD: Animal Control has expertise with hurt pets

DENVER - Denver police say they were prudently protecting the public from an injured animal, but an online petition demands an apology from the department after one of its officers prevented a man from helping a dog hit by an SUV that later died.

As of 8:20 p.m. Friday, more than 3,363 people had signed the petition at change.org. The petition has been signed by people as far away as Australia and Canada. A petition link for mobile users: http://ch7ne.ws/1gec4Dt

Ross Knapp, who lives nearby, said he was just trying to help the injured dog lying in the middle of Federal Boulevard near West 21st Avenue on Wednesday night.

"One of the officers told me I had to leave and couldn't be near [the dog]," Knapp said. "I tried a couple of times to go back and [the officer] just said I was impeding an investigation… and if I came back, I would be arrested."

Police department spokesman Sonny Jackson said officers don't want anyone to get hurt by an injured animal.

"When you have an injured animal, they're often more dangerous than when they are ambulatory," Jackson said. "I've tried helping an injured animal and I've been bitten. It's frightening and it's unfortunate. You want to do the right thing, you want to help, but you also have to consider the situation, that you could be injured."

Jackson said police took a prudent action and called Animal Control officers who are trained to help with injured animals.

"They're the experts in this type of situation," Jackson said.

But it took the Denver Animal Control officer one hour and ten minutes to get to the scene.

"We got the call at 8:45 p.m.," said Megan Hughes of the Denver Department of Environmental Health. "The [animal control] officer arrived at 9:55 p.m."

Hughes told 7NEWS that Animal Control Dispatch is normally staffed from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.

"After 8:30, it goes to our on-call officer," she said. "That officer lives in Montbello. So it took him a while to get to the scene."

Several residents say police should have allowed someone else to take the injured dog to a veterinarian.

"Denver Police handled a really delicate situation in a very unprofessional manner," said Englewood resident Connor Leiva. "The officer involved made a judgment call based on policies and procedures, and in doing so, failed to exercise any rationality, compassion or understanding."

Leiva said he was so upset by video of the injured animal that he started the online petition seeking an apology from Denver Police.

"I was extremely upset," he said. "I have two dogs of my own and they are like my children."

Leiva's online petition asks Denver Police to apologize to the dog's owner, the people who tried to help and to the dog.

Among the messages on the petition: "I'm not worried about an apology. I want to see those officers reprimanded for animal abuse." 

Jackson said Leiva has the right to start the petition. "It's freedom of speech," he said.

Jennifer Edwards of The Animal Law Center said police department policies require that an officer seek medical attention for an injured person, and "I think there needs to be a provision in there for injured animals."

Jackson counters that that's what officers did.

"We called animal control," he said. "They are the ones with the expertise to handle injured animals."

But Edwards says that, in this case, that wasn't enough.

"The issue here is the dog was allowed to suffer for 90 minutes and it was offered no veterinary care, and that's just unacceptable."

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