CROWN POINT | Nearly 40 people gathered in downtown Crown Point Sunday night to remember two Siberian huskies that were shot to death by Crown Point police officers last week.
The candlelight vigil turned into an open discussion about the incident and what force police should be allowed to use against animals. Some shared stories about other incidents involving police and dogs.
Gina Glueckert, of Dyer, held a sign questioning the outcome if a canine was shot. She told the crowd that people shouldn't have to worry about the safety of pets.
"You shouldn't have to be scared in your own home," she said.
Kara Michalec, sister of the dogs' owner, said the vigil was organized to raise awareness for huskies and dogs wounded by police.
The Siberian huskies, Atka and Kenai, were fatally shot Wednesday by police. Crown Point police previously said the two dogs were acting aggressively toward officers, a cat and a cat owner.
Police originally received the call from a woman who said the dogs dragged her cat to a nearby creek bank and were cornering her husband. The caller described the dogs as "wolves" and police initially thought they were large coyotes.
Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said last week his officers did all they could to prevent the shooting. The officer pepper sprayed the dogs to scare them but the huskies continued circling the officer and cat owner.
It was unclear what happened to the cat involved in the incident. A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said the cat had about 10 stitches and is expected to make a full recovery.
Local animal activists read poems during the vigil and presented the husky owners with a plaque.
The owners, Brad Nitz and Lindsay Schild, sat somberly during the vigil. Nitz placed his hand over his eyes and Schild wiped tears from her eyes.
Crown Point residents Chris and Dawn Vevers attended Sunday's vigil after learning about it on Facebook. The couple owns three dogs that were rescued.
The couple said they wished police would have used nonlethal force to control the huskies.
"I wish there was another alternative," Chris Vevers said. "It's really sad."
He said he would like police to issue a formal apology.
Barbara Handley, of Portage, who volunteers with CPR Fund Rescue, said she would like officers to receive extensive training on how to handle wild animals and pets.
"They need to be trained," she said. "It was not humane."
Michalec said the group wants to push legislation to mandate all police officers receive training to handle animals. Others who attended the vigil suggested marching to the department and others wanted to start an online petition.
Michalec said they are also waiting for the release of a police report about the incident and are considering getting an attorney involved.
"The dogs could have been tranquilized," she said. "There is a lot of room for improvement."