Lawsuit filed against State Police for killing family dog

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Nearly two years to the day, and life hasn’t gotten much easier for Bryan Hartman. “It took more from us than just Lucy,” said Hartman. Hartman said he and his wife Michele have fought for answers since the day State Police shot and killed his pit bull Lucy.

Attorney Jenna Fliszar filed a federal lawsuit against the state, State Police and the two troopers involved in the incident, Trooper Jeremiah Mistick and Trooper Shawn Panchik. The suit claims the troopers used excessive force and violated the 14th Amendment rights of Bryan and Michele. The Hartmans are asking for monetary damages. The lawsuit also demands training and protocols be put in place for State Police when dealing with dogs in the future.

See full Complaint HERE: 3-15-15 Hartman Complaint

"We have seen a large increase in the number or shootings and shooting deaths involving dogs, and we think there is this 'shoot now, ask questions later' mentality," Fliszar said. "They [police] could have used some lower level of force. The fact that they had their guns drawn as soon as they got there indicates they weren't sure how to handle it," she said.

State Police declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

Missing
On March 18, 2013, Michele let the dogs out when she got home from work. “Lucy was outside for probably just a few minutes. I was just getting their dinner ready, and I went outside to let them in and she wasn’t there,” said Michele. She worried because Lucy didn’t have a collar on.

The Hartman’s spent hours searching for Lucy. “We made posters and put them up all over Glen Rock and Shrewsbury,” said Bryan. “Then the next day we got a call from the dog warden saying a pit bull had been shot and it matched Lucy’s description.”

Police [previously reported]
According to State Police Public Information Officer Robert Hicks, troopers got a call that a dog was on a woman’s porch destroying her screen door trying to get into the home. “When the dog saw them [troopers] it became aggressive and started to charge at the troopers. The dog did stop prior to getting to the troopers, at which point it took an aggressive stance. It started to bark and growl at the troopers. The troopers were yelling at the dog trying to get it to flee but it wouldn’t. Then the dog made a move towards the troopers and they had to put the dog down,” said Trooper Hicks.

The Hartman’s have their doubts about Lucy being aggressive and wonder why other methods were not used. “I would much rather you mace my dog or taser my dog,” said Bryan.

State Police say they had no choice. “In that situation the Troopers had no choice. They did what they had to do. Using pepper spray or the taser might not have been 100% effective in preventing the dog from attacking them,” said Trooper Hicks.

“The troopers do feel bad about having to put the dog down, but they had no choice in the situation. No troopers wants to go to a scene and put an animal down. In fact both of the troopers are dog owners, so they know what it’s like to have a family pet,” said Trooper Hicks.

Finding Lucy
Bryan said it took days, numerous calls and going to the media before State Police would tell him where to find Lucy. “After talking to the media one of the responding troopers finally called us. He said that they had shot Lucy and killed her,” said Bryan. "They said they placed her over the guard rail. I found her down a 20 foot embankment. So she wasn't placed, she was tossed. I think meant to be forgotten about."

According to State Police, “It happened at one in the morning so there wasn’t too much that could be done. The dog had no identification so we couldn’t even contact the owners. So the troopers took it to the end of the property and put it over the guard rail on the other side,” said Trooper Hicks.

Bryan went to the location and picked up Lucy. “I carried her out and buried her. I gave her a nice spot.”

"It's been a complete battle just to get to this point. Just to find her body we weren't told that until we went to the newspaper, then they contacted us. Then to get the police report, we went through the process with our attorney and got nowhere. Then when FOX43 did the story they contacted us and said they would give the police report. I think if they had acted in the proper way it wouldn't be an issue," said Bryan.