John Timmins, who’s been an animal control officer in Bergen County for 17 years, said he’s never ordered a police officer to shoot an animal.
After his dog “Wildfire,” a four-year-old American Bulldog, was shot by Passaic cop Samuel Rivera Jr. on September 23, he wonders why there wasn’t more empathy for his dog after she escaped from his fenced-in backyard.
Rivera, the son of a former cop who went to federal prison for extortion as mayor, responded to a call about a dog chasing “innocent people in the area,” according to NJ.com.
When he arrived on the scene, Rivera observed the dog chase and attack a cat and chase another dog, which got away from Wildfire, according to his police report.
Wildfire Was Shot By Passaic Cop Samuel Rivera Jr.
Timmins, however, disputes details in the report, which incorrectly characterized his dog as a pit bull and stated he understood the officer Rivera’s approach and “did not object to the outcome.”
At the scene, where Wildfire was chasing the cat and dog, a witness approached Rivera’s patrol car and told him the dog did not seem aggressive, according to dash cam footage.
So Rivera called for animal control and tried to capture the dog himself, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
The animal control officer in Passaic was 30 minutes away. So Robert Boyle, the head animal control officer, who is also the Chief of the Passaic County SPCA and sitting board member of the New Jersey SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) responded.
According to Rivera’s report, Boyle advised the dog should be “neutralized.”
Eventually Passaic’s animal control officer Brian Gunderson arrived.
The Passaic Police Department’s watch commander also agreed with Boyle’s assessment.
“That’s the saddest thing that she ran into those specific officers. Most officers I know wouldn’t make that approach,” Timmins told NJ.com during an interview.
“They lost the basic things they are supposed to do. You don’t sentence, you don’t judge. You capture.”
Rivera says in his report that he proceeded to shoot the dog with his police-issued shotgun, which struck the dog in the right should,” instantly neutralizing the dog.”
After it was confirmed the dog was dead, Rivera wrote that he couldn’t find any wounded animals at the scene when he and Boyle returned to the area where the dog was reported attacking other dogs.
Contrary to the police report, Timmins did not agree with Rivera shooting his dog and said his dog was “never aggressive.”
“I initially thought, ‘Maybe they have the wrong dog. My dog doesn’t do this.'”
During Clifton’s most recent city council meeting, Timmins called for Boyle, who plans on retiring in the spring of 2018, to be suspended.
Within the next month, Timmin’s plans to file a complaint against the authorities involved in his dog’s death in the Passaic County Superior Court.
“They lack empathy,” Timmins said.
“And that’s a problem.”