ST. PETERSBURG — Police said the message scrawled outside their headquarters Thursday afternoon was full of it.
In more ways than one.
The note, written in what police believe to be dog feces on the 13th Street N sidewalk outside the St. Petersburg Police Department's Training Building, sent a pungent memo to police: "DOG KILLERS."
"Their message is meant to be an insult based on the recent incidents we've had with dogs," said police spokesman Mike Puetz, who called the note a "vulgar accusation."
Police believe the message refers to a string of incidents in which dogs have been fatally shot by police officers.
The most recent incident occurred last week when a dog named Phero was shot and killed by an officer in a Crescent Lake neighborhood. St. Petersburg police had responded to an apartment at 421 10th Ave. N after multiple 911 callers reported people yelling and a possible stabbing.
When officers arrived, they drew their guns and saw what was described as a pit bull terrier run at them from the back of the home. Officer Jeremy Hayes fired three times from about 10 feet away. "We feel we were acting in a justified manner given the circumstances," Puetz said.
Last year, city officers shot and killed at least seven dogs.
In one shooting, a 12-year-old arthritic golden retriever named Boomer was killed, prompting a change in department policy in November. Police Chief Chuck Harmon instituted new regulations for dealing with dogs that include using "catch-poles."
The officers were not prepared last week to encounter an animal, officials said, because the initial call was for a domestic dispute. "Everyone has been on board with the changes to our policy in how we deal with dogs," Puetz said.
Ultimately, Puetz said he hopes the sordid sidewalk message, and the outrage that prompted it, will wash away with time.
Marissa Lang can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.