Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sorry Polar. We Failed You.

As you can guess, Polar did not make it through her ordeal.  She was killed by Chesterfield County last week after a "thorough" investigation.  Uh huh.  The outcome in this case was a forgone conclusion and there was no way to change it but I had to try.

I say Polar was killed because she was.  By all public accounts, this incident was a tragic, unfortunate accident.  Even the medical examiner said the death of the child was accidental but that didn't matter.  In their press release, the Chesterfield County Police Department said that Polar was euthanized but let's consider the word "euthanasia" for a moment, shall we?  Wikipedia defines it as:

[Animal euthanasia (from the Greek meaning "good death")] is the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, an animal suffering from an incurable, esp. a painful, disease or condition.  Euthanasia methods are designed to cause minimal pain and distress. Euthanasia is distinct from animal slaughter and pest control, which are performed for purposes other than an act of mercy, although in some cases the killing procedure is the same.  In domesticated animals, this process is commonly referred to by euphemisms such as "lay down", "put down", "put to sleep", "destroyed", or "put out of its/his/her misery".

I don't know if anyone knows, because I didn't until later, that Polar had hip dysplasia and had one hip corrected. She was in pain and on pain medication for the other hip. There was no indication that Polar was in enough pain or discomfort that she should have been "put down". This was revealed just a few days before Polar was killed. Again, I say killed and that is what I mean. Polar did not meet the conditions that would would have led to her being put down humanely. So let's consider, for a moment, why she was "put down". Was she put down because she was vicious? Well, according to the Virginia Code Polar did meet the definition of a vicious dog. This section says that if a companion animal causes the death of a human then it is vicious and should be put down and that a judge orders the animal to be put down. Okay, that's the code and I see the Commonwealth's point but let's consider a few facts. One, there is no evidence that the child was mauled. The child suffered one bite to the head that caused cerebral edema that caused death. [Note: Only in passing am I going to mention that the child was taken to Chippenham Medical Center and not the area's level one trauma center, VCU Medical Center.] Two, there is no evidence that this matter was ever taken before a judge for a hearing so the judge could decide whether or not Polar should be put down. For those of you that may not know, there is such a thing as "case law" in the Commonwealth. The judge, after hearing all of the facts, could have decided that Polar was a dangerous dog which is a lesser degree of dangerous animal and all of the provisions of that code section could have been followed and Polar could have lived her life in a caring and loving home. Three, there was no evidence that Polar ever bit a person before this incident. In the human criminal court system, a person's criminal history or lack thereof, is considered before sentence is imposed. Polar did not have this luxury. Polar had no one to speak for her in front of a judge because the case didn't get there. I would like to believe that if a judge heard the case, there may have been a different outcome. At the very least, there would have been an "independent trier of the facts" to hear the merits of both sides.

A good friend explained to me that if you owned a dog you could take that animal, healthy or not, to a vet and have the animal put down! Companion animals are property and can be disposed of at any time. Herein lies another problem...Polar's owners signed her over to Chesterfield County and based on my previous sentence, you can see the problem. Since Chesterfield County owned Polar, they could put her down at any time WITHOUT having to take the case in front of a judge. But you would like to think that since Polar was such a high profile case, the County would have taken the case in front of a judge thereby adding legitimacy in their decision to put her down but there is no evidence that they did that and if they did, there was no court date made public so that anyone with a dissenting opinion could have been heard.

We had a deaf dog rescue willing to sponsor us as a foster, under their insurance, for Polar. This agency contacted Chesterfield Police and Animal Control and told them that but it made no difference. Hundreds of emails and snail mails were sent but that made no difference. Hundreds of phone calls were made and that made no difference and I begin to wonder...what would have made a difference?

I'm sorry Polar but the very human race that worked so hard to save you in the first place let you down this time. Please wait for us at Rainbow Bridge where we'll meet and play for all time.

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