An art tribute to Choppo who was shot by the RCMP, made by artist Amanda Moore.

An art tribute to Choppo who was shot by the RCMP, made by artist Amanda Moore.

LETTER: Choppo didn’t have to die

Cruelty investigations should be conducted by BC SPCA


I am certain everyone who has heard about this shooting, is as traumatized by the killing of Choppo as I am. As such, I feel compelled to write.

By way of background, I am a former canine obedience instructor (training instructors), dog trainer and was working toward certification as a wolf wrangler for the Hollywood North movie industry prior to our transfer to Prince Rupert. My entire life, I have had giant breed and working dogs, plus I have worked with all breeds and types, specializing in working with wolf-dogs. Never once have I seen a situation of aggression that was not created by humans and not necessarily humans the animal lived with.

By all accounts, Choppo was terrified and acting out of fear, instinct and running on adrenalin. The police vehicle dashcam or body cam will tell the story and experts will be able to assess the situation. It doesn’t help Choppo but it stands to reason that the city bylaws officer(s) are not trained or equipped to handle extreme situations. There should be people who are well-trained and equipped to handle these cases. I truly believe the BC SPCA should take over the animal control contract, and be funded to enable them to train a specialist.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert RCMP shoot and kill dog

I also believe the RCMP should be provided tranquilizer guns for wolves, bear, and aggressive dog situations rather than kill first and ask questions later. Many of us have large, guardian breeds and when an animal is terrified, instinct can take over and drive it to acting out of character. Breed-specific legislation only creates fear and anxiety. It is humans that cause the issues and breed really doesn’t matter.

I had a 185-pound Newfoundland dog attack me. I didn’t kill the dog or have him shot but diffused the situation and immediately took him to the vet who diagnosed a severe and painful medical issue compounded by extreme anxiety, anxiety caused by my personal stress at the time. Medical intervention took place and the big guy lived a long, incident-free, peaceful life for 11 more years. He could be trusted in every single situation life would throw at a dog. I would even find our Postie having a coffee break on our stairs, sitting beside the dog and sharing her snack with him. My point being, even the kindest of dogs, no matter the breed, can become aggressive when in pain, stressed and/or terrified.

An animal running on fear is also running on adrenalin and needs a much different approach to ensure a safe resolution. So much trauma for all involved but the one consistent thread I keep hearing is that Choppo was set up to fail by a fearful and disrespectful Postie.

READ MORE: Incident involving “several dogs” halts Canada Post service on Prince Rupert street

Acting in what I trust is good faith, the City validated this fear by declaring Choppo a dangerous dog. I am not sure why the dog was loose that day or why the family or person watching him was not available to corral Choppo but I am certain that a properly trained person could have managed a more peaceful resolution.

Yes, Choppo may have still had to go because he would have likely been left with a deep-seated fear, but it could have been a kinder and more gentle death with his loving family seeing him out. This incident is so troubling that I can’t fathom it and have been unable to sleep.

Going forward, I expect a cruelty investigation will be conducted by the BC SPCA and that the City seriously consider implementing their recommendations. I would personally like to see the City of Prince Rupert consider turning the animal control contract back to the BC SPCA with the condition they train a specialist to diffuse situations and prevent further shootings which only traumatize everyone concerned, including the officer forced to kill a dog.

Katherine Spong

Prince Rupert

READ MORE: City of Prince Rupert steps ups the enforcement of its dog bylaw

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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