Animal Control Officer Fumes After Cop Kills His Dog With Shotgun

PASSAIC – As an animal control officer for Bergen County, John Timmins says he knows what it’s like to have to capture an aggressive dog.

You have to be careful, vigilant and patient.

But, he says, in the 17 years he’s been on the job, he has never ordered a police officer to shoot an animal. So, on Monday, almost two months after a Passaic police officer killed Timmins’ dog with a shotgun, he’s still wondering why those who responded that day weren’t more empathetic, and is preparing to fight it out in the court system.

Wildfire, a nearly 4-year-old American Bulldog who was killed in September

Timmins, of Passaic, said Wildfire, his nearly 4-year-old American Bulldog, was shot in September after she escaped from his fenced-in backyard.

Police responded on Sept. 23 to calls that the dog attacked other dogs and chased “innocent people in the area,” according to a police report by the responding officer.

Timmins, who works for Bergen County, disputed details in the police report, which he said incorrectly characterized his dog as a pit bull, and incorrectly stated he understood the officers’ approach and “did not object to the outcome.”

According to the report, Passaic Officer Samuel Rivera Jr., responded to a call of a dog attacking other dogs. When he got to the scene, he watched the dog chase and attack a cat and chase another dog, which got away.

Rivera, the son of a former police officer who went to federal prison as mayor, called for animal control and unsuccessfully tried to capture the dog.

Passaic’s animal control officer was 30 minutes away, so Clifton’s animal control officer, Robert Boyle, responded. Boyle advised Rivera that the dog should be “neutralized,” Rivera recounted in his report.

Passaic’s Animal Control Officer Brian Gunderson eventually arrived and Passaic police’s watch commander agreed with Boyle’s assessment, according to Rivera’s report. Gunderson did not immediately return requests for comment.
“That’s the saddest thing that she ran into those specific officers. Most officers I know wouldn’t make that approach,” Timmins said. “They lost the basic things they are supposed to do. You don’t sentence, you don’t judge. You capture.”

Rivera said in the report that he proceeded to shoot the dog with a police-issued shotgun, hitting the canine behind the right shoulder, “instantly neutralizing the dog.”

After the dog was confirmed dead, Rivera wrote that he and Boyle returned to the area where the dog was initially reported as attacking other dogs and couldn’t find any victims or wounded animals.

Timmins said in an interview Monday that Wildfire was a joyful dog who was “never aggressive” to anyone and that the way police claim she acted that day still perplexes him.

“I initially thought, ‘Maybe they have the wrong dog. My dog doesn’t do this,'” Timmins said.
Timmins called for Boyle to be suspended at Clifton’s most recent council meeting.

Boyle had already planned on retiring in the spring of 2018, ending more than 36 years as a city employee with an “impeccable record,” Clifton City Manager Nick Villano said.

Timmins’ attorney, Isabelle Strauss, says she anticipates filing a complaint in Passaic County Superior Court within the month and declined to comment further.

“They lack empathy. And that’s a problem,” Timmins said.