On July 29, 2008, Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo was out walking his two Labradors. As he approached his porch, he saw a package that had just been delivered to the house. He reached over, picked it up and took it inside. Little did he know what was in the package, or what was about to happen next.
Prince George’s County law enforcement knew that the package contained drugs, and suspected the mayor or a family member was involved in drug dealing. A police SWAT team was not available, so a deputy SWAT team took over. Some of the deputies thought they had a “no knock” warrant, but the police had actually not requested one. They stormed the house without announcing themselves, killing both dogs in the process.
Mayor Calvo sued the County, and the parties have reached a settlement on the eve of trial. The terms of settlement are confidential, but — kudos to the Mayor — the settlement included two provisions. First, Prince George’s County law enforcement must change how and when they use SWAT teams. Second, they must focus on more humane treatment of companion animals.
On one hand, I would have loved to have seen this case go to trial, for no other reason than to allow Maryland to weigh in on whether it is time to treat companion animals like more than mere personal property. But had the Mayor prevailed at trial, he would not have gotten these two very important considerations addressed. I will be anxiously awaiting how Prince George’s County addresses companion animals in the wake of this law suit and settlement, and whether the changes they make can be applied to the many, many other cases of law enforcement shootings of companion animals.
We may get another shot at changing Maryland law. I’ll be keeping my eye on what happens with the Jenkins lawsuit filed in Frederick County, Maryland.