Tre Smith, a Toronto Humane Society Officer (and a really nice guy, I met him on the set of Animal House Calls) was suspended after rescuing a Rottweiler (named Cyrus) locked in a car that was baking in the sun. When Tre broke the window of the car to extricate him from the vehicle, the dog was foaming at the mouth and showing other signs of heat stroke. After being confronted by the dog's alleged belligerent owner, Tre handcuffed the man to his vehicle and rushed the dog for medical treatment. These actions unequivocally saved the dog's life.
The story would likely have ended there if the dog's owner did not have his face bashed in by a group of passers-by. acting as vigilantes. A group of activists rallied in front of the Humane Society a few days ago in protest of Tre's suspension from work.
The important questions are: 1) Did Tre Smith take the law into his own hands by handcuffing the owner to his car? 2) Could he have waited for the police to arrive before taking the dog for treatment? 3) Could he have brought the owner with him in his vehicle? 4) Does the safety of a human being trump that of a dog? 5) Is this vigilantism exhibited by the crowd acceptable? 6) Should Tre Smith be punished for these judgment calls?
Answers: 1) As an officer of the Humane Society, Tre Smith had the right to protect himself, the public, and the dog. A police officer is not permitted to handcuff someone to a vehicle as it poses a potential risk. Tre Smith, therefore, did not have the right to do so. You can justify it until the cows come home, but his duties do not trump those of a police officer. 2) No, the dog's condition precluded the possibility of waiting for the police to arrive - the dog would most certainly have died. 3) I don't know think so: if the pet owner was fully cooperative (there is evidence that he was not), then yes he could have. I don't think this was possible hence the officer's decision to lock the man to his car. 4) Yes, I think it does. The pet owner's safety is as important as that of the dog, even if we know that he committed a terrible act. What makes this more difficult is that the dog was near death. Whose health was in jeopardy in this case? The dog's. Tre had to act and act fast. While I don't agree with handcuffing anybody to their car, I cannot proffer a more reasonable decision based on what I know about the case. I cannot condemn his decision for doing what he did. 5) He cannot be held accountable for what an angry mob did to this guy, though he may be directly responsible - this is likely one of the reasons for which an officer may not be permitted to do this. The mob took the law into their own hands and boy, as much as this guy deserved it (I have spoken with a very trusting source that can attest to this guy's piece-of-crap character), it is up to the law to decide his fate - not you, not me, not the activists at the Humane Society. 6) I believe that Tre Smith is sincere in his reports that he has done "the best I could in that situation." His judgment in handcuffing the man may not have been ideal but again, I don't know what else he could have done. Please, let us ALL glean something from this case.
This brings us to the next crucial issue: we must amend our deplorable laws regarding animal cruelty so that we can start to believe in them.
Click here to read more about Tre Smith and to see photo of Rotty immediately following his rescue.
Two men who bashed the dog owner's face in have been charged with assault, and for good reason.