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(TN) Arrest in dog rescue outrages pet lovers

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Drizzt, Apr 18, 2003.

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  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Well-Known Member

    Arrest in dog rescue outrages pet lovers

    Staff Writer

    Firefighters and police defend actions as criticism mounts

    Jarrod Martin was repeatedly told to back away from a roaring fire in his apartment building, but the sight of his dog jumping up and down against a glass door in a room filled with smoke was too much, he said.

    The other side of the building was engulfed in flames and the fire was moving toward Bishop, his year-old pit bull.

    ''He was pressed up against the glass as it was,'' Martin said last night. ''The fire was coming right toward him.''

    He said he had waited 30 minutes for firefighters to rescue his dog and decided he must either get the pet himself or Bishop would never make it out of the apartment alive.

    Martin saved the dog from Wednesday's fire but found himself at odds with the police.

    Now some local residents are outraged, and authorities are defensive about a decision by police to charge Martin.

    VOICE YOUR OPINION: How should authorities react when a resident tries to enter a burning building to save a pet?

    Martin, 26, was handcuffed, held by police and cited for the misdemeanors disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment after entering the burning building through a balcony and throwing the dog to safety, authorities said.

    ''I just don't know what the big deal is,'' said Old Hickory resident Josh Fisher, who called The Tennessean to express his outrage. ''I have four dogs, two cats and two birds, and you'd better believe I would get every one of them out if the place was on fire.''

    Fisher, who attended Sylvan Park Elementary with Martin but hasn't seen him in at least 10 years, said he is upset by the way the man was treated by authorities.

    Fire officials said Martin used a fireman's hook pole to break a glass door on his apartment balcony and reach inside the smoke-filled apartment for the dog. Martin said he used a barbell. The fire at Premier West Apartment complex, 6565 Premier Drive, started about 6:20 p.m. About 16 families lost their apartments in the blaze; the cause was still being investigated.

    Martin put firefighters in danger by entering the building, diverting their attention from the blaze, and he could have caused a ''backdraft,'' a flash fire caused by a sudden rush of oxygen, said Assistant Chief Kim Lawson, spokeswoman for the Nashville Fire Department. Martin, noting that the other half of the building was on fire, disagreed.

    Fire Department officials and Metro police held a joint news conference yesterday and defended their accusations amid a growing flurry of complaints. Lawson was asked what fire officials would have done if Martin had run to save his child from a burning building. ''That would be something that would be a split-second decision depending on the circumstances,'' she said. Lawson said it's the Fire Department's responsibility, not that of citizens, to rescue animals and people from burning buildings.

    ''We don't draw lines. We are here for lives, period. If any situation proves safe, we would go in for a child, a dog, a pet, when the situation was safe enough.''

    Asked whether fire department policy dictates when to go in to rescue a person as opposed to an animal, Lawson said, ''We don't really have a point. We will always do a primary search for any life at all. Obviously, you've got to have some of the flames knocked down.'' Lawson added: ''We always go in and make a primary search on any area for any life at all. It's common to see pets taken out and given oxygen by our firefighters. We do the best we can.''

    Firefighters had not entered the building when Martin rushed in, officials said. Lawson said the situation was too dangerous for anyone to enter the burning building at that time. ''The floors were collapsing, the fire was escalating and there was a lot of smoke coming from the building. I'm really sorry that this happened. We cannot have citizens or other people creating additional problems, which probably took a little bit of time. No, we do not wait to go in. We will go in and search and do the best we can with any life — human, animal, any life.''

    In June, for example, Metro firefighters worked hard, even performing CPR — in saving the lives of 200 exotic birds trapped in a burning residence. They tried to evacuate the parrots quickly, performed a form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation on them and used oxygen masks. Fewer than 10 were saved, the rest dying of smoke inhalation.

    The Tennessean received numerous letters and phone calls yesterday from angry readers who wondered why police would bother to handcuff Martin and treat him like a criminal. ''Shame on the police department for not taking pity on a man who was losing everything he owned to a fire and couldn't bear to part with his four-legged roommate!'' Melissa Hinton of Brentwood wrote. ''Shame on them for adding insult to injury.''

    Nashvillian Bobby Braddock wrote: ''For years, I have been a contributor to police and firefighter organizations, but as an animal lover, I strongly protest the shabby treatment of this man who risked his life to save his dog. In my eyes, he is a hero.''

    Several others, responding to a Tennessean online forum, defended the police actions, saying Martin endangered the lives of firefighters.

    Police said Martin initially told an officer on the scene that he wanted to go back into his second-story apartment to save the dog. The officer denied his request but immediately told firefighters that a dog was in the unit, police said. Firefighters told the officer it was too hot to go in the building, but they would make a rescue attempt as soon as they could knock down the flames.

    Martin ran toward the burning building, climbed to his second-story balcony, broke out a window and got the dog. Martin pushed his pet to safety and jumped off the balcony.

    The charge of disorderly conduct carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine. Reckless endangerment is punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, according to state law.

  2. CZ-75

    CZ-75 member

    They could've played "Cookeville PD" and just shot the dog.

    All I'm wondering is how hard would it've been to send a fireman up on a ladder to break the patio door and grab the dog. Obviously a civilian did it and suffered no harm.
  3. KFD147

    KFD147 Well-Known Member

    What people don't realize is that once the fire dept. is called it is no longer thier place. It is in control of the fire dept. and the incident commander is responsible for anybody and everything on that scene. Your house on fire is not yours anymore once 911 is called and untill we put out the flames or it ends up a new parking lot.:D and pending a cause and origin investgation. This gentleman was worried about his dog, he had every right to be. Most people consider their animals like members of their family. The main thing he did wrong was to take it upon himself to rescue his dog. Now the firefighters have to worry about an person going into a building, not wearing any protective gear or breathing apparatus, that is engulfed at one end and then breaking a window at the other giving it more air to continue the combustion process making things burn faster and hotter. Fire can't burn without oxygen and when it is deprived for along time, then gets a sudden new source it becomes violent and tends to explode towards that direction. If this had happened while he was rescueing his dog, both of them would have been toast and the public outcry would have been why couldn't you control this from happening. It says that he saw the flames coming towards the dog, but later states that he did not think it would cause a backdraft because the other side of the building was on fire.:scrutiny: Everything at a fire is done with team work and the incident commander knowing where the firefighers are and what they are doing. If you get people like this that don't think about what they are doing and get in the way, it makes our job harder. If this was a child, it would have been different. Our main goals are our safety and human lives first, and property second. Dogs are considered property.:( That is the way it is. Can you tell a firefighter's spouse that he and his partner died when the second story that he was on colapsed while he was looking for somebody's dog to rescue!

    Jason:cool: :fire:
  4. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    Jason, you make good points. However, consider the relationship between a dog and his owner. I certainly regard my pets as family, and would probably have done what this guy did if I saw it as the only way I could save my "friend". Sure, it wasn't a good, rational idea, but then rationality isn't uppermost in one's mind at a time like that, is it?

    I think the incident could have been better handled if the FD and/or local cops had let it go, without charging the guy. I'm afraid the charges are what has pushed this one "over the top", and I think they will regret doing this. It would have been sufficient to have a quiet word with the guy next day, saying roughly what you said in your post. I think he would have accepted it, and perhaps even apologized for causing a ruckus. However, now that it's in the criminal courts, I think it's going to snowball, and cause problems no matter how it turns out.
  5. KFD147

    KFD147 Well-Known Member

    That's true. I don't think he should have been arrested either, maybe a citation, but not arrested. On the other hand this also leads me to think that there is a little more to the story than that is written. Firefighters and Police don't usually have somebody arrested for things like that unless the gentleman's attitude got out of control. It looks like the media is a little one sided again with their reporting. I would have called the guy an idiot and then explained to him when he was in a more rational mind that the world did not revolve around him.:D

  6. Engsetter

    Engsetter Member

    I don't care if it is Wrong, Illegal, No longer my place because the fire department is called??? Whatever!!! I would have done exactly the same thing this fellow did for his dog. To be arrested and handcuffed for disorderly conduct or Reckless endangerment after saving my dog would be my pleasure. To watch the authorities not do anything for 30 minutes while my dog is trying to get out would just burn my britches. This would definitely end up before a full jury. What tyranny, they can take their jurisdiction and shove it in my opinion.

    LOL now that I have told you how I honestly feel. I must say, I do understand the dangers firemen deal with. But since it seems the firemen were not willing to risk their lives for a dog while the owner watched. They should then allow the owner to take the risk, seems fair to me!!!
  7. LiquidTension

    LiquidTension Well-Known Member

    If this untrained, unprotected guy could get the dog without injury, it seems like the FD assessed the situation very poorly indeed. The police and fire department are using the letter of the law to punish a guy that did their job better than they could. I bet that if it had been a house in the middle of nowhere he wouldn't have been charged because there would be nobody around to see the FD getting shown up by a random guy.

    I have nothing but respect for firefighters and police - except when they do BS like THIS.
  8. Pendragon

    Pendragon Well-Known Member

    Personally, I like animals, but people who act like they are people drive me INSANE.

    Yet, I support their right to be insane in that way. If you consider your dog part of your family, it is no more reasonable to expect you will stand by and watch your doggie burn that you would watch your child burn - if you tried to stop me going after my son, I would do anything up to shooting you to keep you from stopping me.

    That said, the risk assumed is mine - I could not go on living knowing I had watched my child burn and stood by because Sparky told me to.

    If that is how you feel about your dog, then, like I said, you are beyond help - but you gotta do what you gotta do.

    Perhaps the duress defense?

  9. WYO

    WYO Well-Known Member

    I remember being on a scene one Christmas Eve where the husband/father went back in to rescue the pet after the family had evacuated the burning building. He was carried back out in a body bag, and the family had an agonizing wait until the coroner showed up and broke the news. Merry Christmas. So, if I tell someone not to attempt to go back into a burning building, I have that in mind, in addition to the dangers posed to firefighters attempting a rescue of the "rescuer" and the potential that the ventilation will change the dyanmics of the fire and endanger the firefighters already in the building. Depending on the circumstances and the charge(s), an arrest could be required by law or policy.
  10. general

    general Well-Known Member

    I have pets... so....
    I say if someone (somedog?somecat?) you love is in danger of dying - do all you can to save them. I sure can see the FD's reluctance to risk a human on it - but if it's your own a** your risking...well I say I'd have to do it.
    BTW - hasn't this peticular PD/FD heard of the old adage "All's well that ends well"? High stress situations make some people do very dangerous stuff.
    He should get off.
  11. tyme

    tyme Well-Known Member

    Wny not let people go back inside and simply refuse to rescue them if they get into trouble? Are people too stupid to be able to make rational decisions about entering a burning building?
  12. Matt1911

    Matt1911 Well-Known Member

    I have 2 kids,and 6 dogs...
    I understand the firemans point of view,still,i would have done the same thing.Non "dog-people"just can't understand.
    Some one said they can't understand treating dogs like people,thats not it.Other than my kids,there are very few people i'd risk my a** for..............
  13. El Tejon

    El Tejon Well-Known Member

    I can't believe this Johnny would put an animal, a dog, geez, over his fellow human beings. Based on the responses maybe this is yet another "cultural thang" that this Yankee doesn't get. Sounds like he needs a jury of PETA and THR members.:D
  14. TheeBadOne

    TheeBadOne Well-Known Member

    Can you believe this? :rolleyes:
  15. KFD147

    KFD147 Well-Known Member

    If we let everybody do this you would have a body count like that of the RI night club fire at every other fire, but instead of people dying to get out they get tunnel vision trying to search for and save Rover and the next thing he knows is he can't see due to the smoke. He starts to breath in toxic gases in a panic, because now he can't find Rover or the door and it is getting extremely hot very fast. Then he passes out from lack of fresh air, whether he gets burned up or not he is about to die from lack of oxygen to the brain right beside Rover.

    I think that the man got all caught up in himself from rescuing his dog and when the FD/PD went to tell him he was wrong he had a few choice words for them during an adrenaline rush. It's like cussing at a cop when he has pulled you over for a violation. If you are nice you might get off with a warning. If you cuss at him you will get a ticket and he will start to look for other violations also.:cuss:

  16. MeekandMild

    MeekandMild Well-Known Member


    I can understand your perspective. But I would think the fire department entirely discharged its responsibility to this guy when it warned him. He should have been allowed to climb up there at his own risk and rescue the dog without hassle.

    I think he has a potential lawsuit against the FD for harrassment and I know a really good Tennessee lawyer who may well end up with the case and a few hundred thousand dollars of the city money.

    I also think the charges against him are too harsh. I could see charging (but not convicting) him of disorderly conduct, but the reckles endangerment charge sounds like hype to me. He endangered no one but himself. To misquote RA Heinlein, any citizen should be allowed to go to hell in his own way.

    My two centavos worth. It is a dangerous world out there.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2003
  17. Selfdfenz

    Selfdfenz Well-Known Member


    "The Dog and Dog-Owner Friendly State."

    It gets my goat to hear public servants whining about how endless dangerous their jobs are for this and that reason. Or because this or that can happen given this or that set of circumstances.

    If such is the case, stop whining and get another job. I know being in a FD or a member of LE is dangerous.

    I've had more than one means of employment that stunk. I left'em.

    Construction work is hard and dangerous. I'm not sure a hardhat would be justified grinding his foreman's face in the dirt becasue that hardhat might accidently nailgun his hand or have a scaffold board bust one of his toes. I can't accept some of the jack booted thuggery that seems to be more and more SOP out of LE, and now it appears some FDs, because some "policy" is broken.

  18. 45-auto

    45-auto Well-Known Member

    I see it this way:

    The guy is free to go after his dog, simply because it's a free country.

    But the fire department has no liability whatsoever if he does so.

    When he's gone after his dog and brought it out O.K., it's really stupid to arrest him. No harm, no foul.

    Plus the cops and everybody else have got to stop protecting people from their own stupidity. It makes for tyranny and thwarts (temporarily) evolutionary progress.
  19. El Tejon

    El Tejon Well-Known Member

    45, I believe the question is whether one is free to endanger others. Just because you exist, does not give you the "right" to do whatever you wish at the expense of another's life and limb.

    Of course, we may see what the jury thinks about this duress defense.
  20. DJJ

    DJJ Well-Known Member

    The proper response to the charges should simply be, "Tell it to the jury."
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