OPINION: Family Pet Shot Dead by Police Officer

A tragic scene unfolded at a residence in Howell Wednesday night as a beloved dog was shot dead by a police officer in what appears to be a situation that is becoming all too familiar throughout the nation: pit bull prejudice.

Bentley George, a three year old pit bull, was shot from across a yard three times in the chest by an unidentified Howell police officer responding to a complaint about a dog attack from three hours prior. The police officer who responded knew Bentley's owner, Nina Bisozio, 24, who resides in the quiet cul-de-sac off Anthony Way in Howell.

Without animal control accompanying the scene, the officer approached the house through the open garage on the side of the property. The residents were not home at the time of the shooting, according to Bisozio.

 The original complaint against Bentley came from an incident that occurred in the home around 5PM that evening. Bisozio's mother had invited a co-worker to her home to cut her hair. The unnamed woman had never been to the home prior to Wednesday, but according to Bisozio, entered the property unannounced. Bentley, described by friends and family as "sweet", "hyper", and "overly-friendly", promptly met the stranger at the backdoor and proceeded to jump on her. The owner responded by swiftly pulling Bentley down, as the woman then ran behind a door and started shouting in fear. The young dog became even more excited by the woman's commotion, and owner Nina decided to calm the woman and her dog by taking him for a walk around their neighborhood. The owner then returned a few moments later, and after examining the woman, was reassured the situation was resolved. The complainant had suffered no more than a long surface scratch from Bentley's overgrown nails, but as no blood had been shed and there was nothing vicious like a bite wound, the owner was told by the woman that there was no need to involve police or medical care. However, the woman let the owner know that she would speak to her husband about the incident when he came home from work. At that point, the woman left.

Bisozio and her boyfriend, Travis Daidone, 22, who was also there at the time, proceeded to head out of the home for the evening, believing the incident between the woman and Bentley to have been minor. It is unknown what time the complainant then decided to make the call and claim she had been attacked by Bentley to Howell police.

The family's housekeeper, Linda, answered the officer at the home's backdoor at approximately 8PM Wednesday night. What happened next is nothing short of a call for need of dialogue on prejudice against pit bulls, and a call for changes in police protocol.

Allegedly, Bentley escaped from behind the housekeeper and ran through the back door. However, instead of shooting Bentley in the garage or surrounding area, the officer had to turn and shoot Bentley as he was returning from running across the property's side yard. Bentley never jumped toward the officer or made an aggressive move. In fact, Bentley simply sprinted across his own yard, like any happy and perhaps,  overly-excited, family pet.

Bisozio and Daidone happened to be only a mile away returning home when they received a call from Linda at 8:04 PM. " 'Nina! Nina!' is all I heard before the officer must have grabbed the phone," Bisozio states. He then told her, "I'm sorry, I shot your dog."

Bisozio arrived home within just a moment of the call to see Bentley limping, still alive, from the tree line across the yard. Bentley died on the way to the animal hospital a short time later.

"I'm heartbroken. He was like my kid. How do you kill someone's family member and not think twice before you do it?" Bisozio questioned.

"I'm not here to attack the police. But would Bentley still be alive if he had been a lab or a golden retriever? Should cops have the right to shoot and kill instead of using pepper spray?"

Bentley was not in range for the officer to use pepper spray, Daidone points out. This further begs to question why the officer would even have felt the need in the first place to draw his weapon and shoot in the chest, a shot clearly intended to kill, instead of attempting to disable the animal in the leg?

Statistically, pit bulls account for 80% of dogs shot dead by police. Bentley, although a pure bred pit bull, was not a vicious killing machine, as depicted by a crazed media over the years after sensationalist maulings. No other species of dog has been so demonized as the pit bull, despite recent movements by loving owners and fans of the loyal breed who have fought against the stereotype by drawing attention to the problem being owner-related, not the breed. In fact, it is well known that pit bulls are so easily trained by vicious owners for fight rings because they are so obedient and eager to follow their owners. Rather than make a killing machine, loving owners like Bisozio are fans of the breed because of their loyalty and the close bond that can be formed.

Nina's Facebook page has been filled with hundreds of messages of sympathy, outrage, calls for justice, and condolences for Bentley, a dog loved by all who came in contact with him. At interview time, Bisozio had just finished speaking with a News 12 Team and had already gotten word to the Asbury Park Press. Bisozio is determined to not allow Bentley's killing to be brushed aside, but to spark a call for changes in the way pit bulls are stereotyped and for police to reevaluate a shoot-to-kill mentality.

"If he had just used pepper spray, which he had on him, or just waited to see what Bentley was doing instead of just thinking 'KILL', my baby would still be here," Bizosio said.

**On a personal note, this writer feared dogs, after having been the victim of several terrifying chases by dogs and two attacks. None were pit bulls, but the stories I had read made pit bulls an absolute nightmare in my mind nonetheless. Nina and Bentley helped me a great deal after Nina learned about my overwhelming fear and forced me to come home with her and meet her pit bull. Bentley, having been raised to firmly believe he was a lap dog the size of a small poodle, was curled up on top of me making stinky dog farts within a few short minutes. Bentley is single-handedly the reason I no longer fear dogs, and no longer hold a prejudice toward pit bulls. Tragically, Bentley is not the first dog I know of in just Howell alone to be shot for no obvious reason of threat at the time other than officers responding to a separate residence call, and all were pit bulls. All were also innocent, and their owners left alone after the police pulled away to agonize over what could have been done differently to prevent them losing such a beloved part of their lives and families.

I hope this helps Bentley, and hope we can get at least get a dialogue started on changing police protocols, and about killing the stereotype against pit bulls.

Thomas Montesano June 16, 2014 at 04:19 PM
My comments have been getting deleted despite no profanity or rude language. That's a little disturbing.
Caitlin Brown June 18, 2014 at 12:22 PM
I have to be careful how I comment on this- I now write freelance for patch but this article I wrote INDEPENDENT and as an OPINION for my very close friend, the dog's owner. I have not deleted or done anything with these comments so I really can't say why they don't appear but please do not fear that I'm censoring anyone because I am not. Thanks everyone, again, this is my own personal written piece and NOT a contracted news article. Anyone can write and post in this section of patch. Thanks for everyone's comments, negstive or positive, because it kept a dialogue going on an important issue and that was my main goal in posting my friend's side of the story. Thanks
LADY J June 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Caitlin: I don't think any of the contributors to the comments section of the items being discussed feels it is one of the commentors not listing the message. As I wrote last nite, I responded to Thomas' comments yet my response is not shown above yours and below his. Why does this happen? I know that the Patch says it will not put in comments with bad language or "mean" hurtful comments...so why don't some of our comments get shown? I never thought one of the commentors could be deleted by another. Perhaps the controlers of Howell Patch can explain this to us?? Your comment I know was very personal and truthful-showed your feelings and that is what the commenting is supposed to be about. No one thinks you deleted anything--at least, I never thought that. I responded to your comment and was glad you brought it to our attention-yet, my first comment is not shown above. Beats me how this works..............???!
Caitlin Brown June 18, 2014 at 01:04 PM
Right, I noticed that I got an email with your comment, and your comment is actually the one I went to respond to, and then couldn't find it. I really couldn't tell you why, but if I find out I will let you know!
LADY J June 21, 2014 at 06:19 PM
Thanks for your help. If they want public opinions, they have to print them as long as language, etc. is acceptable to readers. Don't put out a "Patch" type site if everything/anything is censored because someone doesn't like an answer--not fair to those of us who spend our much valued time discussing our input. We'll just move on to a fairer more open site...


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