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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 Member

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    Arrest in dog rescue outrages pet lovers

    By SHEILA BURKE
    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.

    http://www.tennessean.com/government/archives/03/04/31730843.shtml?Element_ID=31730843
     
  2. CZ-75

    CZ-75 member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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


    Jason:cool:
     
  6. Engsetter

    Engsetter Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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?

    Hmm.
     
  9. WYO

    WYO Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    Can you believe this? :rolleyes:
     
  15. KFD147

    KFD147 Member

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    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:


    Thanks
    Jason:cool:
     
  16. MeekandMild

    MeekandMild Member

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    Jason,

    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 Member

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    Tennessee

    "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.



    S-:fire:
     
  18. 45-auto

    45-auto Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    The proper response to the charges should simply be, "Tell it to the jury."
     
  21. F4GIB

    F4GIB Member

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    Is Nashville one of those "modern" fire departments that don't carry/use ground ladders? Or were they just too fixated on the front door to remember that ladders go to balconies, which lead to doors, thru which the rescue can be effected without needing to enter the building? Someone wasn't thinking.

    In my decade as a firefighter, we made dozens of "rescues" by opening doors and letting pets run out. No muss, no fuss, no risk, just common sense. Obviously, it as NOT "too hot" on the balcony.
     
  22. 444

    444 Member

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    As a professional firefighter, and a dog owner and lover, I can see boths sides of the argument. But being a realist, the situation boils down to the same thing it does in every aspect of our lives; Lawyers. The reason firefighters can not allow you to enter your home when it is on fire is because if you get hurt, they will get sued. Once you call them, they are on the hook to the lawyers. For example, had this guy gotten hurt, it would have been said that he didn't realize the danger involved and the firefighters did, so they should have stopped him, and the fire department usually has pretty deep pockets that make the leeches, woops, I mean lawyers salivate. In the real world there is no such thing as telling this guy; Hey, it isn't safe but if you want to go in there it is up to you. Once we are there, it is our responsibilty to ensure life safety.
    Every emergency response involves certain decisions that involve a risk to reward ratio. How aggressively you attack a fire is predicated against the danger invovled. In this case, it appears that the fire department had gone defensive. In other words the incident commander decided that it was unsafe to risk human life in an attempt to save a building that was already too far gone to save. The fact that floors were collapsing obviously tells me that the structural integrety of the building has been compromised. First of all, obviously if the floors are collapsing, then it isn't safe to stand on them and this includes the floors in this citizens apartment. Secondly if the floors are collapsing we have lost an integral part of the support structure of the building and, the rest of the support structure has been exposed to the same heat and fire as the floors.
    As far as a backdraft, it could happen. Just because a part of the apartment building is not currently involved in fire doesn't mean that it can't flash over or cause a backdraft. Since this was an individual apartment, the chances are that the front door was closed. When you have fire, what is actually burning is not the material itself, but gases being given off by the heated material. This is called pyrolysis. Sustained combustion also requres four items to be present. Heat, oxygen, fuel, and an uninhibited chemical chain reaction (pyrolysis). Without all four of those items, you cannot have sustained combustion. Inside this apartment, you could very easily have sufficent heat to cause everything in the apartment to be heated beyond it's ignition temperature, yet have no flames. For example because the mixture is too rich (just like a carburator). But, if oxygen in sufficent quantities are introduced into the equation, the room charged with superheated fire gases and fuel could litterally explode (backdraft)).
    As to whether or not I would attempt to rescue the dog would depend on the circumstances. It is very possible that every man at the fire scene was actively engaged in fire fighting and they didn't have anyone to pull off of their duties to rescue a dog. The story doesn't give us enough information. For all we know every available man was rescuing humans from other apartments. I feel sure that in an apartment complex, with a fully involved building, many men would be evacuating the surrounding buildings in addition to fire fighting. For all we know there are fire casualties and men not involved in the actual fire fighting operation were working to save their lives. If I was standing there with nothing else to do, and I saw a dog pressed up against the glass door at a balcony that wasn't currently involved in fire, I would ask the incident commander or my division commander if I could attempt a ladder rescue. However a ladder rescue is not without risk even without a fire. Have you ever tried to carry a dog down a ladder ? What if the firefighter fell off the ladder and was paralized ? What if this pit bull attacked the fire fighter trying to make a rescue ? Who answers for the cost to the tax payer for these injuries ? Who explains to this guy's wife and kids what happened ? How does the firefighter pay his bills if he is disabled recueing this dog ? If it was a human ? I wouldn't have to ask. That incident commander is responsible for every life at that fire scene. To you, this may be the single biggest event of your life and everything you hold dear may hang in the balance. To the firefighter, this is something he does every day, and he wants to live to do it tomorrow and most important of all he wants to go home at the end of that shift. Would I put my life up against that of a dog ? No. If I thought the risk to reward ratio was in my favor, I would take some risk to do it. Our first priority at any incident is our own safety. This isn't all selfish. One of the first rules in emergency response is; Don't make the problem worse. On the scene of an incident you can provide a postive outcome or you can make the problem worse. By sending a company into a seriously compromised building to rescue a dog, you are putting much more at risk than if you didn't. If that company gets cut off or lost in the building you now have to effect a rescue effort putting more lives at risk. You also now have to change your goal from firefighting to a resuce operation which could significantly increase the spread of fire due to manpower shortages which would put more people and property at risk. We have strict guidelines about when we can enter a burning building. One of those guidelines is that we will not enter a building unless there is a rapid intervention (RIT) team standing outside the door with tools and a charged hoseline to rescue US if the SHTF. The one exception to this rule is if we have a known life safety issue. Then all bets are off. You will find firefighters taking every chance no matter how big to rescue that person or persons almost regardless of the risk involved. I think the attempted rescues at the World Trade Center speak for themselvesf and the three hundred odd firefighters who never made it out alive speak for themselves. I don't know what you do for a living, but every month I get a newspaper put out by our union, the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) and the last page of every issue lists the members who lost their lives in the line of duty. I counted the numbers this month, but I can't remember the number. Each one of those guys died in an effort to rescue life or property of the general public. Every day we receive E-Mails from our department listing line of line of duty deaths and their circumstances.
    There is no bigger dog lover in the world than I am. I have a reputation far and wide as being a dog lover. I have a dog calender hanging on the wall at the station. But it would break my heart to know that one of those guys listed every month died trying to save a dog from a hopeless situation.
     
  23. TheeBadOne

    TheeBadOne Member

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    Exactly, well said.
     
  24. Greg L

    Greg L Member

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    Granted his sense of time probably was distorted (911 logs should show how long the fire was going), but it seems to me that the fire couldn't have been that big if the dog survived 30 minutes inside. OTOH if it wasn't that big why did it take 30 minutes to put it out to the point where the dog could have been rescued.

    It probably would have been much easier all around to (as was mentioned) put a ladder up to the balcony, let the dog out, and either drop him off the balcony or carry him back down (the FD has lots of heavy gear on so even if the dog was biting in panic it probably wouldn't break the skin (besides, if he tried to bite you on the ladder, then you drop him :D )), give to dog back to the homeowner, and shoot any of the lawyers who are standing around making a fuss.

    Greg
     
  25. 444

    444 Member

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    Oh, and I would also be willing to bet my next paycheck that there was more to this than the story lets on. On my department we have somewhere around 700 suppression personel and each one had a different personality. Same goes for the police department only they have more guys than we do. BUT, I very seriously doubt that this guy would have been arrested just for climbing a balcony to save his dog by any one of them. Some of them get carried away with their own authority, but all have better things to do and bigger fish to fry.
    I can see the handcuffs however because this guy has proven that he is not making rational decisions. He very well might have wanted to save his baseball card collection next and went right back into the building if not restrained. He has already proven that less aggressive means of controlling his behavior dont' work.
     
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