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City to cover medical bills for dog shot by police officer

October 26, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown plans to reimburse a family for medical costs incurred when a police officer shot their dog this month.

On Monday, Police Chief Arthur Smith said he expects the payment, which City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman approved, to be finalized in a day or two.

The amount will be about $7,600, the cost of medical expenses for treatment of Targa, a 6-year-old black Lab, Smith said.

Mary Gesford, whose family owned Targa, said the police department told her Friday that it was speeding along the process for paying the family.

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"I don't know what's going to happen," she said Monday, "but I'm hoping for the best."

The Gesfords had Targa euthanized Wednesday, six days after Officer Jesse Duffey shot him.

Smith and the Gesfords say Targa ran at Duffey when the officer was trying to serve a warrant in the 500 block of North Mulberry Street on Oct. 15.

They disagree, though, on what should have happened next.

Smith said Duffey was cornered and reasonably defended himself as the dog lunged at him.

Mary Gesford said Duffey could have used other techniques, such as hitting the dog with a baton or using pepper spray.

Smith said Duffey did nothing illegal or against department policy.

"Everyone has had days to second guess," Smith said. "He had only seconds."

The department will look step by step at what happened for training purposes, Smith said.

He said officers frequently face aggressive dogs and sometimes are attacked, yet this apparently is only the second time an officer has shot a dog in roughly 10 years.

Gesford said she forwarded information from The Humane Society of the United States to city officials about how police can avoid shooting dogs.

Duffey shot Targa in the larynx. The dog was treated at Park Circle Animal Hospital in Hagerstown, then a veterinary hospital in Frederick, Md., where he needed surgery.

After being euthanized, Targa was cremated.

Gesford has told people who want to help that they can donate money for the veterinary care. If the city covers the full cost of medical care and cremation, donations will be forwarded to the Humane Society, Gesford said.

At www.historiccitypark.com, Heather Holman expressed her outrage over the shooting and urged others to contact city officials with "polite" correspondence.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood wrote back to Holman: "My heart goes out to the Gesford family; as an owner of two dogs, I certainly expect higher standards from our police department and I will make sure that the family is compensated for their loss."

In an e-mail to the Gesfords, Haywood wrote that she'll make it her "personal mission" to make sure the family is reimbursed.

Haywood, who forwarded the e-mail exchanges to The Herald-Mail, couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Smith said he also feels bad for the Gesfords; he had to have his nearly 14-year-old dog, a Belgian Malinois, euthanized at about the same time Targa was shot.

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