Someone trying to extort money from missing dog's owner - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Someone trying to extort money from missing dog's owner; police describe animal training

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis woman who says police shot one of her dogs and let the other run away is now dealing with a possible extortionist.

An entire community turned out Friday to help Anna Bolton find her lost lab mix Violet.  Violet ran away Thursday after Memphis olice shot her other dog, Bing, while responding to an alarm call at her home.

"My phone is ringing off the hook with people trying to help," Bolton said. "Email, Facebook, I've just been bombarded in a good way, and I'm so appreciative."

But at least one person sought to take advantage of Bolton's misfortune.  Around 7:30 Friday morning, she began receiving text messages from a mysterious caller. 

The first text said "I found your lab dog."

"I wrote back and said, 'Where is my dog?' and they say, 'You pay if you want your dog. My friend has your dog. You pay if you want your dog,'" Bolton said.

Police tried to track down the texting extortionist, but there was no way to trace the number.  Bolton doesn't believe the caller even has her dog.

"I feel like I've been through hell in the last 24 hours, and just for somebody to take advantage of that, I don't understand that," she said.

In the meantime, those who want nothing in return turned out in droves, volunteering their time by picking up and posting flyers and offering their support.  

"I just love dogs and I'm going to help her find her dog," volunteer Lana Chu said.

Bolton's dog Bing was still at the vet Friday recovering from a gun shot wound.  According a Memphis Police Department spokesperson, since the beginning of 2009, Memphis police have shot at 48 dogs.

  • 13 of them were killed
  • 4 were critically injured
  • 11 had superficial wounds
  • 20 were not injured

Officials said all police officers are trained in how to deal with animals.

"Primarily, that's done through their training of in-service or during their recruit training," said Lt. Robert Harris of the Memphis Fire Training Unit.

According to Harris, new recruits get several hours of animal training and go on to get regular refreshers during in service classes. 

"We teach them to try to recognize a possible threats as they make their approach on property," Harris said.

Officers are supposed to survey the property for signs of an animal. If they are confronted, their first line of defense is to get away.  Next is to use pepper spray.  But Harris says attacks usually happen very quickly.

"In most cases, I think the animal is on top of the officer before they have time to make that proper assessment," he said.

Harris said police protocol police regarding use of force is the same whether officers are threatened by animals or people.  But, he added, firing a weapon should be a last resort. 

"We use a minimum amount of force necessary to control any situation, and in order to neutralize an animal on a scene, that would probably be the officers last option," he said.

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