A Baltimore police officer charged with slitting a dog’s throat claims he did so to ensure the safety of a pregnant woman who had been bitten by the Shar-Pei.
Lawyers for Jeffrey Bolger state in a motion to dismiss that Bolger was authorized to euthanize the dog under the city health code because the dog had caused a puncture wound and Animal Control had not arrived on the scene despite numerous requests.
Had the dog escaped, the woman would have had to undergo rabies testing, which Bolger understood could harm her unborn child, the motion states.
The dog, a 7-year-old named Nala, “appeared to be malnourished and foaming at the mouth” and fought the restraint of a dog pole for more than an hour, the motion states.
With no way to tranquilize or transport the animal, Bolger used the knife to “quickly euthanize the dog,” relying on his experience as a commercial fisherman, the motion states. Bolger decided against shooting the dog out of fear of injuring bystanders, the motion states.
Katie Flory, acting chairwoman of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission, criticized Bolger’s actions, noting high-ranking police officers have condemned what Bolger did. Keeping Nala on the dog pole would have ensured the safety of the dog and any passersby until Animal Control arrived, said Flory, who is also a volunteer manager with the Maryland SPCA.
“There are no procedures or training that justify this behavior,” she said. The commission has been working with police to provide continuing education on animal handling, she said.
Bolger, 49, is charged with two counts of mutilating an animal, one count of animal cruelty and one count of misconduct in office. He pleaded not guilty Thursday morning in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
A trial is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Baltimore City Circuit Court, according to Steven H. Levin, one of Bolger’s attorneys. Bolger, who has been a city officer since 1992, is on suspension pending the outcome of the court proceedings, said Levin, of Levin & Curlett LLC in Baltimore.
The motion to dismiss also refutes reports that Bolger said “I’m going to gut this dog” prior to killing Nala.
“Bolger, himself a dog owner and dog lover, stated in a frustrated manner that he was going to have to ‘cut’ the dog when he realized he had limited options available to him,” the motion states.
Bolger’s lawyers say the case should be dismissed because a preliminary hearing was never held to establish probable cause. Bolger was initially charged in June in Maryland District Court, but those charges were dropped last week, according to court records.
Prosecutors filed a criminal information in Baltimore City Circuit Court against Bolger last month. Bolger’s lawyers claim a charge by information without a preliminary hearing can only be done in a felony case if the District Court would not have jurisdiction over the felony. In this case, the defense argues, the District Court would have jurisdiction over three of the charges, while the fourth, misconduct in office, is “utterly vague, providing nothing in the way of notice as to the elements of the offense.”
Officer Thomas Schmidt, who responded to the dog-bite call with Bolger, faces the same charges as Bolger. His arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records.
Flory said the anti-animal abuse commission is working with police to provide continuing education on how to handle animals. Bolger and Schmidt’s actions were not typical of city police officers’ when it comes to animals, she said.
“These two officers made a very bad decision,” she said.