Couple says police, firefighters went 'too far' in dog rescue

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on January 10, 2012 at 11:05 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 12 at 10:52 AM

DALLAS — One minute, a North Texas couple was having a birthday lunch. The next, Dallas police were surrounding their car and prying the trunk open with a crowbar.

The couple said officers crossed the line, all because of what they found inside their new Hyundai Sonata: Their two dogs, on a day when the weather was what many would consider perfect.

John and Danika Shipman came to Dallas from Pottsboro to celebrate John's birthday. They brought their two Yorkies, Copper and Penny, with them.

"Those dogs go with me wherever I go," Mr. Shipman said.

But when the Shipmans went into a West End Restaurant, they left the dogs in the car. They didn't see any problems. It was a cool, cloudy day.

Less than an hour later, John Shipman's cell phone rang.

“They said, 'You need to come outside immediately,' Shipman said. "The fire department has broken into your car and we have your dogs."

When they arrived at their car, parked one block away, they saw the damage. Firefighters had pried the trunk open with a crowbar, leaving what the Shipmans say is about $5,000 in damage.

"I was in tears," Danika Shipman said. "He just got me the car less than two months ago. It was the first new car I've ever had."

Officers explained to the Shipmans why they took action.

“They said it [was] too hot for those dogs to be in the car, and they got a call," Mr. Shipman said. "I said, 'Really guys, it's 55 degrees out here today. I don't think we have a problem."

The police took the Yorkies. John Shipman was charged with animal cruelty. He could face up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The Pottsboro couple wants the city to pay for the damages to their car.

"It seems common sense would be to first try a slim jim to open a door," Mr. Shipman said. "Second, if that doesn't work, bust a window out. We're talking a couple of hundred dollars of damage compared to $5,000 damage."

Dallas city officials believe firefighters and police acted properly, and did not go too far in getting the dogs out of the car.

The Shipmans said they love their Yorkies very much and would never put them in a potentially dangerous situation in any parking lot. Dallas Animal Services returned the dogs to the couple the next day.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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