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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Humane Society officer: right or wrong?

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.

7 comments:

dianemarie123 said...

I don't know, it can't be the first time this has happened. Surely he was justified in taking the dog forcibly if it was close to death. I don't understand the reason for handcuffing the guy though. If he were that belligerent, couldn't the officer have taken a license plate number and called the police later?

I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest this, but if the jerk did need to be handcuffed, wouldn't it have been safer to handcuff him INSIDE his car? With the windows all the way up, of course.

TORONTOVET said...

You're absolutely right about just having taken his license plate number. The police could have easily found him and arrested him. I don't think he would have skipped town.... Excellent suggestion.
We all wish that Tre had handcuffed him inside his car, with the windows all the way up...
Had the dog owner succumbed to his injuries, Tre would likely have been in way deeper doodoo.

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Cashew said...

Well, here's my two cents:

1) Did Tre Smith take the law into his own hands by handcuffing the owner to his car?

Probably, but not sure if I wouldn't have made a mistake under such tense and emergency circumstances.

2) Could he have waited for the police to arrive before taking the dog for treatment?

Absolutely not! Glad he didn't.

3) Could he have brought the owner with him in his vehicle?

Why bother with someone like that? Why risk being with someone who may potentially be dangerous?

4) Does the safety of a human being trump that of a dog?

Hmm, well... of course not (just thinking of my pooch and what I would do for him - I think I would save my dog over someone like him - my dog has far more brains, character, and respect for other beings).

5) Is this vigilantism exhibited by the crowd acceptable?

No. They went too far. But I guess it just shows you how much people abhor animal abuse.

6) Should Tre Smith be punished for these judgment calls?

Hopefully he's already learned the power of those handcuffs. But I think he aready has been punished with all the negative press.

Thanks for a place to voice my opinion!

TORONTOVET said...

I think the safety of a human being, in today's society (now,today) trumps that of a dog.
However, if it was my own dog (if I had a dog), and the person was a piece of s--t, I'd probably think otherwise...

vet-indo.com said...

thanks for the great posts :)

Socks, Abby, Blackie and Dex said...

I dont know...the guy definately needed to be taken into custody, and the life of the dog in question is very important. Would I handcuff the guy to the outside of his car...maybe not. But I would definately have made sure that the dog was safe.

A better way of going around this, might have been to put the dog in the front of the cruiser, the idiot in the back, behind the divider, shere he couldnt hurt either the officer or his dog...take them both to the vets, let the guy see what it is that he did to that poor animal, then off to jail. I dont know what the Canadian laws are like, but I hope that the cop get a pat on the back, as they slap his hand, and they let him return to duty