Controversy erupts over the shooting of a dog in Alton

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ALTON, IL (KPLR) - After the City of Alton, Illinois's animal control department was cut due to budget issues, the responsibility was given to the city police department. While the transition officially occurs August 1, the animal control officer is on vacation until July 31, effectively ending animal control coverage for the city.

On Monday (July 20) a beloved family pet was shot and killed by two Alton police officers sparking outrage on social media. Protestors gathered outside City Hall Wednesday (July 22) to express their anger over the city council's decision to eliminate the animal control department.

The dog at the center of this incident is Buster, a 15-year-old boxer/pit bull mix belonging to the Harris family. Richard Harris said his dog would sometimes leave the fenced in yard and wander to the neighbors' homes. Sunday morning (July 19), Harris discovered Buster was gone from the yard.

Harris said when Buster didn't return by Monday morning, he called the Alton Police Department to report his pet was missing. He said he provided a description of Buster along with a microchip number and Harris' contact information.

Monday afternoon, Alton police responded to a call about an aggressive injured dog outside the Family Dollar in town. The dog was loaded into the police vehicle and driven to the Public Works building, where, according to a police report, Buster became increasingly aggressive.

Buster's body was then taken to a local veterinarian's office where a microchip was discovered and the Harris family was notified Buster was gone.

According to Jackie Spiker, co-founder of Hope Animal Rescues, the officers violated state law.

"They should have picked up the animal, taken it immediately to a vet and scanned for a chip so that a proper owner could have been found and that owner could have made the decision as to what to do with their property," said Spiker. "That is the law. That's also common sense."

"We know what our protocol has been up to this point," said Emily Hejna, public information officer for the Alton Police Department. "We were presented yesterday with some law saying something that might contradict what what we have been using as practice."

Hejna acknowledged the police department will need additional training about the community resources available to officers to prevent situations like this from happening again.

In late news from the Alton City Council meetings, the council voted to reinstate the city’s animal control officer.