Dog Gone Shame

Fido's next big adventure could end in a hail of bullets

In any case, the officers who responded to the call about Smurf didn't know about his status. According to their reports, they simply saw an agitated pit bull on the loose. The MPD's policy regarding the use of deadly force says that cops can use force "to protect the peace officer or others from apparent death or great bodily harm."

None of this appeases the Evans family. They say they've received plenty of explanations, but they haven't heard an apology from anyone involved. In May, Allen and Julie Evans fired off a letter to a host of politicians and to the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office demanding $100,000 to compensate for the "pain and suffering" associated with Smurf's death. Assistant City Attorney Tim Skarda wrote back to the couple, saying that he is evaluating the claim.

Attorneys who have had similar cases in the past suggest that the Evanses' chances of seeing that kind of settlement are slim. Under state law, aggrieved dog owners are only entitled to the "fair market value" of their pet. "As a practical matter, there is almost no avenue of remedy or relief," says Marshall Tanick, a Minneapolis attorney who has represented both dog organizations and dog owners. "You can only recover the monetary value of the dog. You can't get emotional damages or punitive damages."

Attorneys did find a way around that legal roadblock in a 1998 lawsuit filed by a family whose pit bull, Gippy, was killed by 15 shots fired by Minneapolis police officers. A jury agreed that the family had been deprived of its property and Gippy's former owners were awarded $5,000, as well as more than $50,000 in attorney's fees.

The Evanses have two more dogs to look out for, Cola and Snoopy. Both are part pit bull. More than money, the couple would like to see some changes in city policy, so that they and other families don't lose more pets under similar circumstances. Julie Evans said she would like to see both Minneapolis police and Animal Control officials trained to use tranquilizer guns on dogs.

In the meantime, they are trying to keep Smurf's memory alive with a small tableau in the front yard of their Minneapolis home. One of the dog's worn green collars dangles in the breeze from a sawed-off branch. A cardboard sign lashed to a pine tree strung with Christmas lights features photos of Smurf pasted above captions reading "Family Pet," "Devoted," and "Lovable." One shows the dog with the Evans children in Halloween costumes; another depicts him cuddled up on the couch.

"I just don't want it to happen to someone else," she says. "I want something to change."

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