- I've never heard of The Puppycide Database Project. How can I be sure that your information is credible?
We are the first, and so far that we are away only, organization devoted to the complete compilation and statistical research of shootings of animals by police. This goal, and our execution of it, sets us apart from projects that deal with the same topic with the hopes of persuing political activism rather than research. For example, we include every shooting of every animal that meets basic reliability criteria: we do not curate the database to only include cases based upon whether the actions of police come across as justified or not justified.
We don't ask anyone to take our word for it. Anyone can access the records in our database using the search engine on our website. Copies of the database are made available in multiple formats on a regular basis through GitHub. The Puppycide Database Project may be among the first to research the complex issues involved in police violence toward animals, but we hope we are not the last. Our ultimate goal is to encourage other researchers to review and perhaps use our data for their own projects.
- Has The Puppycide Database Project ever been mentioned by newspapers or magazines?
- What is a legitimate source for a submission?
Typically we are looking for an article from a recognized newspaper or journal, court documents, police report or internal affairs documentation. We mostly relied on newspapers, Justia, Document Cloud, PACER and LegalDockets.Com. When the details of your submission are based entirely on a police report or internal police documentation, it is preferable to note that within the summary section of your submission. Submissions based entirely on witness testimony are accepted provisionally pending further confirmation.
- How should I phrase the Summary section of my submission?
Regardless of your opinions about police shootings of animals, the topic is an almost always an emotionally charged one. People care about animals - almost all of us have had a pet at one time or another and almost all of us have had to deal with losing that pet. Many view their pet as a family member. Losing a pet to violence, regardless of the circumstances, is nightmarish.
The point is that its tough to retain a truly neutral tone when discussing this issue. Despite the difficulty, that neutral tone is one that we need to strive for in building the PuppycideDB. Dispassionately reviewing the data allows us to remain objective; its that objectivity that makes the project unique and valuable. Avoid placing blame on one party or another. Attempt to include both points of view when reports conflict. Highlight errors in testimony regardless of where it appears, and back up your conclusions with additional citations within your summary as opposed to a snide remark. Remember: our goal is not to "build awareness" of a political movement but rather to build consensus of facts that were previously unavailable.
- Does the Puppycide Database contain a record of every animal that has ever been killed or wounded by police?
No. See our home page for more information.
- I have received a copy of the database. What do all of the fields and values mean?
When first reviewing the database, the format can be a little confusing. There are a lot of numbers where it looks like there should be words. Some of those numbers are specific to the PuppycideDB database (and the crazed mind that created it). Eventually we will publish an in-depth explanation of all of the columns as time permits. For now, we will briefly note that the columns correspond to questions in the Database submissions form. The columns appear in the database (or spreadsheet if you requested it in that format) in the same order that questions appear in the submission form, so you can easily tell which column corresponds to which question by comparing the database to the form. However, that won't help you understand the numbers.
For Yes or No questions (referred to as in computer programming as Boolean), the answer is stored in the database as a single digit with a value between 0 and 3. Those digits correspond to the following answers:
*Note: The single integer '9' is used to represent a null value for database values having the table type 'tinyint(1)'. If, somehow, a record is created that does not contain a valid value, this is represented with '9'
Puppycide Database Boolean Value Key
Zero One Two Three Nine No Yes Not Sure Not Applicable Null Value*
- What do you mean by Pit Bull?
There is very long-standing controversy surrounding what is and is not a Pit Bull. For example, as of 9/13/2014, Wikipedia makes the incredible claim that the term includes any pure-bred or mix of a dozen different breeds, including dogs as varied in appearance and pedigree as Dogo Canarios, Cane Corsos, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs and even the Pug-like Boston Terrier (with a commanding average stature of 15 pounds). We do not agree with Wikipedia's take on the subject on this site.
For our purposes a Pit Bull is the breed Pit Bull Terrier. Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshires and American/English Bull Dogs should be labelled as such. When we publish our findings, we consistently make clear the problematic nature of the term "Pit Bull", and make it easy for those with alternate interpretations of the Pit Bull term to adjust our findings as required. We make every effort to achieve consistency and specificity in labelling dog breeds, and we ask all volunteers to do the same.
That said, this project relies on the records of third parties to compile our data. Few of the dogs recorded in our database have been identified by a trained breeder or veterinarian. Worse than that, the data collected so far has demonstrated a trend among the police and press to mislabel as Pit Bulls animals bearing absolutely no resemblance to the breed, even to the complete layman. Labradors and Golden Retrievers, for example, have both been mislabelled as pit bulls by police and the media. Our records include one police report that claimed an elderly Labrador with hip dysplasia was a Pit Bull who viciously attacked multiple police officers. The testimony of an eyewitness should never be confused with fact.
That is not to say that all of such incorrect identifications are the result of malfeasance. A 2009 study conducted by Western University and published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science used DNA identification to show that even adoption agencies incorrectly identify 87.5% of mixed-breed dogs.
While there is no perfect solution to this problem that is available to PuppycideDB, we do our best to limit the worst misidentifications by requiring multiple sources of identification to label a breed. If the only identification source for a dog breed is the police report, note that breed in the summary and in the "Did the police or media report that the injured animal was a pit bull?" question, but label the Dog Breed field as Unconfirmed. Only specify the dog breed if confirmation is received from the police and owner or a licensed veterinarian.
Its a common misunderstanding that it is simple to identify a dog's breed from that dog's appearance. People unfamiliar with dogs might misidentify breeds, the thinking goes, but those who have spent their life around dogs should be able to visually identify just about any dog breed, particularly well-known breeds (like pit bulls).
The National Canine Research Council has produced a damning counter-argument for a such a common misconception. For those of you not familiar with the group, the NCRC conducts and publishes research on dog-related topics, like what causes dogs to bite and statistics relating to fatal dog attacks. NCRC research is among the most comprehensive and thought-provoking in the field of canine study.
A brief but ingenious NCRC poster will convince even those most confident in their breed-spotting abilities. The poster is framed like an FBI wanted poster, with mugshots of sixteen different dogs. The headline lets the reader know that only three of those dogs have any Pit Bull DNA. For all of the tens of thousands of pictures of dogs we have seen here at the Puppycide Database Project, the thousands of dog attack reports we have poured over and all the combined years we have spent with dogs as an owner and friend to owners, we were stumped.
If you are like we were, and find the idea that you can't spot a Pit Bull to be ridiculous, then we urge you to take a look at the NCRC poster yourself. DNA tests conducted by independent veterinarians are the only objective way to determine breed; and such results are only available to us in the handful of occasions in PuppycideDB research where a necropsy is performed or the owner has papers from their vet or the American Kennel Club.
- Does the Puppycide Database Project redact information from documents?
At this time, the Puppycide Database Project does not have a PACER account and does not directly file for documents directly from courts or Clerks of Court. Where court documents appear on our website, those documents have been downloaded directly from releases made publicly available by the relevant government agency. As such, we depend upon the government agencies who originally publicly released those documents to abide by Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2 and Fed. R. Crim. P. 49.1. If in the future the Puppycide Database Project volunteers were to procure documents through filings with the court, we would make a best effort to abide by the strictest best practices for the securing of personal information by redacting social security numbers, financial account information, home addresses and the names of minors.
- Does the PuppycideDB just track incidents involving dogs?
No! Every event where a police officer acts violently toward an animal is included, regardless of the circumstances. A focus on dog shootings for the website was chosen because of the public interest surrounding dog shootings, not because of a plan to focus on a single species. Unfortunately, the more the database grows the more clear it becomes that the police do not discriminate, either. Records are currently included involving cats, squirrels, birds, elephants, tigers, emu, apes and mountain lions, just to name a few. It is worth pointing out that events involving species other than dogs tend to be more extreme in their circumstances. On the one hand, these records include animals that can be incredibly dangerous to humans. In one such event, a tiger escaped from a zoo and was shot to death after it had killed a young man and was in the midst of mauling another. On the other hand, this group also includes some of the most senseless acts of violence - like the parakeet in New York whose skull was crushed by a SWAT officer's jack boot during a raid on the home of a family of twelve for illegally placing an orange cone in a parking spot in front of the family business. Even hard to forget is the crowded Dollar General store in Tennessee where a police officer fired three rounds from his service revolver and sprayed mace throughout the unventilated building, forcing customers outside choking and gasping for air, in pursuit of a squirrel.
- Does The Puppycide Database Project only track incidents involving intentional deadly force? What about incidents of negligence that result in death or could result in death?
The Puppycide Database Project also collects information about negligent behavior on the part of police and other government employees that result or could result in death. There are no hard and fast rules about entries that are appropriate and those that are not, so long as incidents are clearly explained in the Summary field in our submission form.
Most of the incidents of negligence that are included are circumstances in which police dog handlers leave K9 officers in a car overnight. There are a substantial number of such incidents that we did not expect to find given the esteem in which police departments hold their K9 officers. Another frequent scenario involves police seizing dogs, tying them to the back of police cars, and driving the car - resulting in catastrophic injuries or death. Without independent witnesses on the scene of such events, it is difficult to demonstrate that police had the intent to injure the dog. We have also seen multiple reports of police seizing dogs and then leaving them on the side of the road, which frequently results in death when the lost & confused victim dog is hit by a car.
In such circumstances it is not the role of the Puppycide Database Project to determine criminal intent on the part of police officers involved However, it is our role to record all these events and analyze trends in behavior where they exist.
- Do you cherry pick the data to publish inflammatory and deceptive trends?
The goal of the project is to attract as many volunteers as possible to submit as much data as possible. Anyone can add to the database, regardless of their opinions about the police, animals or politics in general. In fact, submissions from police are highly encouraged. The goal is to compile enough data to make cherry-picking impossible. Ideally this database will over time grow to include every police shooting of every animal in the United States. However, before that ideal is reached we can make interesting conclusions about the dataset using statistical analysis. In addition to allowing anyone to make a submission, the database itself is available upon request. Any individual, news organization, research group or charity is welcome to review the data for errors and to publish their own conclusions based on the database. Conclusions of value can only be made when based on facts. It is our hope this database will make such a conclusion possible, though it remains unclear where the data will take us.
- Can I scrape your site, or do you provide an API or RESTful means of querying your data so I can use it elsewhere?
There was not enough interest to provision an API. The easiest thing to do is to download a copy of the database from Github.
- Why do you includes the names of police officers?
The purpose of this site is to identify trends related to violence against animals caused by police. Determining whether specific officers account for a disproportionate number of animal shootings or whether there is a correlation between animal shootings and other behaviors is vital to that project. If most domestic pets are shot by a small number of officers who are involved in many such shootings during their career, that is strong evidence that Puppycide is an HR issue - the solution would be to identify and remove "bad apple" officers who repeatedly kill dogs. Conversely, is the data shows that incidents of animal killings by police are evenly distributed across officers, that would be strong evidence that Puppycide is a problem of departmental policy, culture and training. Just this one bit of data is critical to understanding both the issue and how to resolve it!
Unfortunately, police agencies refuse to publicize the names of officers involved in these incidents and reporters commonly fail to research and publish them independently. In situations like this, PuppycideDB relies on FOIA, leaks, witness statements and documentation retained by the owner of the victim, for example shooters frequently write tickets and summons to the owners of victims immediately following Puppycide killings. Such tickets include identifying information like names and badge numbers. We are in desperate need of competent researchers to help us with this work. Volunteers familiar with the FOIA process specifically are in a position to provide a huge benefit to the PuppycideDB Project.
The notion that it is acceptable common practice for police to shoot guns during the course of their workday and hide their identities following such incidents is a shocking issue that has ramifications beyond animal killings. The names of police officers who have publicly discharged their firearm is always a matter of public record and interest. Imagine for a moment a regular citizen, just an average Joe, were to fire a gun in the middle of a public place. That person's name and photo (and likely his entire life story) would be the topic of front page news - and rightfully so. A person's place of employment does not reduce the public importance of acts of violence committed in public. People have a right to know who puts their lives, their neighbors lives and their communities in danger. Perhaps there are good reasons for such violence; there very well may be. But such good reasons are not an excuse for keeping such critical public information secret.
The Puppycide Database Project is not a political group. As such we take very few stances on topics of political relevance. This is one stance that the Puppycide Database does take: Acts of violence demand transparency, regardless of who is involved in the violence.
- I submitted a record, but I can no longer find it in the database. What happened?
From time to time, we manually review the records in our database and remove duplicate entries. Where this occurs - don't worry, your work has not gone to waste! When multiple entries occur, we compile all of the information from those entries into a single, improved entry with all of the data.
- Can I search the database on your site?
Not at the moment.