A healthy 50-pound male pit bull died last month after Portland cops shot it repeatedly with taser stun-guns, the city's first canine fatality involving the weapons. Police insist the tasers didn't kill the dog; rather, they say it died from "over-excitement" after multiple 50,000-volt zaps.
Police tangled with the dog when two officers responded to a call to a Northwest Naito Parkway apartment on the night of June 5. Tenant Aaron Palfoss wasn't home, so police used a janitor's key to enter. Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz says the pit bull attacked an officer, who responded by shooting the dog with his taser.
Though the initial shock knocked the dog to the floor, it got up and continued to attack the officers, Schmautz says. The cops hit the dog with at least two more taser darts before it collapsed and died.
Minutes later, Palfoss returned with a friend, Taylor Brotherton, who says the apartment was strewn with feces from the frightened dog. Palfoss could not be reached for comment.
Taser International, the publicly traded Arizona company that manufactures the popular "non-lethal" stun guns, largely bases claims that its product poses no danger to human life on tests performed on pigs and dogs. Edward Jackson, a Washington, D.C.-based taser expert for Amnesty International, says the human-rights group has documented more than 100 taser-related human deaths, though none in Oregon. The Portland Police Bureau owns 270 taser guns, one for every on-duty officer.
Oregon State University's veterinary lab performed a necropsy on the dog. A preliminary report concludes the pit bull died from circulatory collapse but reaches no judgment on whether repeated taser shocks killed it.
To Jackson, the idea that a healthy dog just happened to die after being tasered is tough to swallow.
"If you can't say definitively that it played no role, then you have to say that you can't rule it out," Jackson says. "You can't say the dog died of stress when the 800-pound gorilla in the room is what caused the stress."
Police will not release the incident report on the visit to Palfoss' apartment, citing privacy restrictions. Taser International did not respond to several requests for comment.