Warning: Video contains graphic marterial
Karen Sutherland and Scott Klinck got the sad news on Tuesday night that an animal that was killed by an OPP officer wasn't a coyote, it was their dog Merrick.
Police were called to the residential neighbourhood in Collingwood at around 9:30 p.m. on Monday night for two reports of a coyote in the area acting strangely.
A neighbour captured the graphic incident on video. It shows the OPP cruiser bumping the dog as it laid on the road and when it doesn’t run away, the cruiser runs over the dog two more times. The officer then gets out of the cruiser and shoots the dog.
“Loyal, amazing, she followed me around everywhere, she was awesome with other dogs she was awesome with everybody,” says Sutherland. “Everybody knew Merrick. She has been my sidekick forever. It's going to be weird going places and not having her with me.”
Sutherland says Merrick was more than 20-years-old, deaf and suffered from dementia. The dog slipped out of their backyard through a gate that had blown open during a storm that night.
Klinck brought Merrick home on Wednesday wrapped in a pink blanket. He can’t believe the dog was considered a threat.
“She looks a little odd in her old age, but they still could have dealt with it in a more humane way,” he says.
The Ontario SPCA has received complaints about this incident, but says in a brief statement they are leaving the investigation to the police.
Insp. John Trude, detachment commander for Collingwood OPP, says the force's professional standards bureau will look into what happened.
“It appears obviously at this point there has been a tragic mistake and the appearance of a coyote was in fact not true,” Trude says. “The officer and the people in the neighbourhood were acting on that belief and they were acting in their best interests.”
Trude says the results of the investigation will be made public.
The story and video have prompted a lot of reaction by people throughout the region and online.
Rick Foley served as an volunteer with the OSPCA and has been an animal welfare activist for nearly 20 years. He says he’s had a hard time watching the video.
"I talked to colleagues in the last 18 hours to find out if this has ever happened before. Never in any of their experiences has this happened before, where a police officer has used his vehicle to kill and animal where it was walking on the road," he says.
Foley believes police officers are not trained to deal with animals. He believes if the officer was cornered, he should have called for help and suggests the officer didn't get a close enough look.
"Usually when you have to dispatch an animal, you dispatch it in the most humane method and the most humane method is you shoot it, you don't use your vehicle."
For some dog owners, this incident has been troubling.
"I didn't know what to say. Just the thought of that being my dog... it's heart-wrenching," one person said.
On the CTV Barrie Facebook page, many viewers have voiced their thoughts on the video.
“This is outrageous. If a civilian had done this, charges would have been laid. It is time for the police to be trained as conservation officers, which also serve and protect, so this stupid mistake never happens again,” says Janey Joseph.
“This is disgusting. Doesn’t matter if it was a dog or a coyote, still disgusting either way! Makes me sick,” says Talisa Fetterley.
However, there are others siding with the officer. Mick Payne can understand the confusion. He says his dog Wylie, looks like a coyote.
"It does affect you because you’re a dog owner and it's an animal, but I think if everyone found out it was a coyote, they would have praised the officer and you’re right in a residential area and it could have taken a child."
"Chance of rabies, very rare in a coyote. Lots of it happening in fox and what not, but if he thought, he perceived a threat to the general public, I think he was justified in what he did," says Gary Banting from Wolf's Den Sporting Supplies.
Merrick’s owners say they want to put this sad event to rest a soon as possible, but they do want an apology from police.