Federal police officer shot dog in Arundel park

Anne Arundel authorities say man killed husky after dogs fought in park

August 03, 2010|By Jill Rosen and Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

Stunned dog owners and residents of a Severn neighborhood are shocked that authorities won't be charging a federal police officer who shot and killed a Siberian husky Monday night at a community dog park.

Bear-Bear, a brown and white husky that was about 3 years old, was playing in the Quail Run dog park at about 6:30 p.m., running off leash inside the fenced-in area, when the officer and his wife arrived with a German shepherd, who was kept on a leash. When the dogs began to play roughly, the federal officer asked Bear-Bear's guardian, his owner's brother, to call off the dog. But before he could do anything, the officer pulled out a gun and shot Bear-Bear, according to the husky's owner.

Bear-Bear, who belongs to Rachel Rettaliata, died of his injuries a few hours later. County police did not name the federal officer.

"I've been bawling my eyes out since 7 p.m. last night," Rettaliata said. "It's grief mixed with anger. We're so angry this guy was able to take our animal for what we feel was no reason at all.

"We still don't believe that he's gone. We just want so badly to be diligent about this. [The officer] has to pay some sort of consequence for his foolishness."

A spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department said no charges will be filed and investigators found no evidence of criminal activity.

Rettaliata adopted Bear-Bear about two years ago from a husky rescue. He'd been seized from a Delaware home where people had tied him up outside, largely leaving him to fend for himself in the elements.

Tiffany Greco, who fostered the young Bear-Bear and placed him with the Rettaliata family, said the husky had led a hard-knock life, starved and neglected, with mats in his long fur the size of softballs. But even though he was mistreated, she said he never became aggressive around people or dogs.

"He was a very lovey-dovey, happy-go-lucky guy," Greco said, adding that Bear-Bear at least had a taste of a good life with the Rettaliatas. "All this dog wanted to do was curl up on top of you."

She said that huskies have a rough way of playing that, to people who don't know them, can seem intimidating.

"They have a much different play style than other dogs," she said. "They're a rough-and-tumble breed. They're mouthy. Often people interpret that as being aggressive when it's really them just playing."

In the Quail Run community of townhomes, a number of residents have dogs that they walk to the community dog park. Neighbors say the park is generally an easygoing place where well-mannered dogs play with one another.

Bear-Bear was a regular there.

Tarnna Hernandez saw Bear-Bear all the time. She lives two doors down from the Rettaliatas and Bear-Bear plays with her children and Marshmallow, her year-and-a-half-old Dalmatian/Australian shepherd mix.

"I've never personally seen him be aggressive toward any dog or human or anything, for that matter," Hernandez said. "My two very young children love Bear-Bear and would attack him every time they saw him with hugs and love."

She can't believe Bear-Bear would ever do anything to deserve being shot.

"I have not seen that dog hurt anyone. Or snarl. He's never even barked," she said. "His only way was to get out a gun out and shoot him? Uh-uh. It's completely unbelievable."

Dorothy Pearce, the homeowner's association manager, was appalled that someone would fire a gun in the community dog park — at dinnertime.

"This is tragic," she said. "A community of homeowners with children playing around should not have gun-crazy, off-duty policemen shooting in their area, especially a dog in a controllable situation."

Rettaliata said that after the officer shot Bear-Bear, the dog didn't yelp or cry, just lay down in the grass, bleeding heavily. "He just went and laid down," she said. "I just can't get over it and I don't think it's being taken seriously because it was an animal involved."

Carolyn Kilborn, chairwoman of the organization Maryland Votes for Animals, based in nearby Annapolis, thought the authorities should be investigating the case thoroughly.

"The killing of the dog in Severn is a sad situation that should be investigated carefully to determine if the incident was caused by a dangerous dog or a dangerous person," she said.

Rachel Rettaliata's last name was misspelled is earlier versions of this article. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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