Police Say Dog Escaped During Shooting
By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune
Rex is one in a million. Well, not quite a million, but likely hundreds of stray dogs that roam Hoopa.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe recognized the problem in 2006 and with a push from local animal rights activists passed a law to create a process for dealing with the animals.
But the law has flaws, as Rex learned on Sept. 11, 2012 when he was shot multiple times by police officers, and lived.
Although Rex cannot tell his own story, several teachers, students and staff are trying to do so in hopes of bringing attention to his shooting. Heather Lewis teaches fourth grade at Hoopa Elementary School. She also put up $500 of her own money to help pay for Rex’s veterinary bill.
“This is a sign of what’s going on in our community at large,” Lewis said. “It’s a cycle of abuse, first it’s animals, then it’s children, then it’s adults. I work here, I live nearby and I care.”
Rex is a black something-or-other breed who hung around Hoopa Elementary School occasionally grabbing a bite to eat and reveling in the affection of hundreds of students and teachers.
Hoopa Valley Tribal Police said they got a call from a school employee on the morning of Sept. 11 reporting the animal, Rex, as dangerous. When an officer responded to the school to retrieve the dog, he reported that he was bit by the dog.
“He spoke to the Chief of Police and was told to dispatch [kill] the dog,” Lieutenant Ed Guyer said.
Guyer said the officer took the animal up a nearby hill to put it down, but the first shot did not kill the dog.
“It took off running and continued to run up the hill,” Guyer said.
According to Lewis and Karin Glinden, another teacher at the school, Rex returned to the school that same day when kids boarded buses to go home.
Principal, Jennifer Lane said seeing Rex with bullet wounds traumatized the students, prompting tears in many of their eyes.
Lane, as many of the students and staff, questions the report made that Rex was dangerous, or had bitten anybody.
“To the best of my knowledge, there were no reports that Rex ever bit anybody,” Lane said. “If somebody was actually bitten, I would be aware.”
There is a policy against abandoning animals on school grounds and signs are posted throughout campuses in the entire school district alerting the public. Lane said fences were constructed around campus over the summer to help keep the campus more secure for several purposes, stray animals being one of them.
“The policy came about after the incidents with stray and feral animals at Trinity Valley Elementary more than a year ago,” she said.
Rex doesn’t read signs, a t least not the written kind. What Rex was after was love and more than a dozen letters written in support of his life prove that he was loved at Hoopa Elementary.
Josephine Caywood has worked for the school for more than 26 years arriving early, around 6am according to a letter she wrote about Rex. She said she fed the dog and that another teacher had also been feeding him.
“Never once did I observe him growl, nip or play rough with the students,” Caywood wrote. “I know that we are not supposed to have animals at school, but somehow my friend [Rex] thought it was his job to come every day and protect the kids.”
When Rex returned to the school after being shot, help was on its way. Greater Rural Rescue Society Volunteers answered the call and planned to take him to the vet in Willow Creek. However, Glinden decided to take the dog herself to a veterinarian in Sunny Brae.
Veterinarian, Malcolm Richardson provided a summary of Rex’s injuries along with graphic photos that the TRT chose not to publish.
“Brief summary: two bullet wounds, one to the head, one to the pelvic region, no bullets remained in the dog. Head: penetration from the lower mandible, fractured teeth lower mandible, lacerated tongue, maxillary canine and first premolar fractured, exit upper right lip. Pelvic: penetration near right anus, exit through left hip,” he wrote in an email.
In short, Rex was shot in the mouth and his butt. The shot in his mouth fractured several of his teeth and severed his tongue. The vet was able to sew his tongue back on and dental work is in Rex’s future. The bullet wound to his rear end entered under his tail and exited through his hip.
“I’m surprised he’s alive,” Glinden said. “The fact that he’s alive is amazing and should send a message to our community that animals should not be treated this way. The police need to be held accountable. I’ve watched this animal affect so many children’s lives. He’s done the work of prophets. He deserves the most humane treatment available.”
Guyer said the lack of infrastructure to support the Tribe’s law often leaves law enforcement with few options. One of their options is to call the Greater Rural Rescue Society, a local volunteer organization that shelters dogs and cats that are either on the brink of death or have nowhere else to go.
But, if a dog is reported as dangerous, or threatens the safety of an officer, it is ‘dispatched,’ or, in other words, killed by police. Tribal law enforcement does not have access to a shelter capable of quarantining an animal, or a shelter that is required to accept dangerous animals, such as Humboldt County, which has a shelter operated under the Sheriff’s Department.
Humboldt County does not have jurisdiction over the issue on the reservation.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to follow the ordinance. The way it is written, we need a facility,” Guyer said. “It’s well written, but we don’t have the land, the facility or the staff that would be needed to fully enforce that law.”
Guyer estimates that Tribal Police dispatches at least one dog per month by shooting, most of the time killing them after one shot.
Lane was careful not to place blame on anybody, but overall she commented on the increasingly obvious problem of animal neglect.
“How we treat our animals is a reflection on how we treat each other,” Lane said. “If ever we expect to improve our community, we need to start by taking better care of our animals.”
Glinden and Lewis believe Rex’s survival means something more than just surviving. It’s an opportunity to teach children how to be responsible pet owners and how to humanely treat animals.
Rex is recovering at his temporary home with Glinden on the coast. He will continue seeing the vet on a regular basis until he has fully recovered.
“The kids are thinking about having a fundraiser to help pay for Rex’s vet bills,” Lane said.
If you would like to donate to help Rex’s recovery, contact Hoopa Elementary School at (530)625-5600 and ask for Karin Glinden.