Memorial held for Denver dog hit by car and left to die by police

A picture of Harley (left), Dani Juras (in orange shirt) and Ross Knapp (right); Knapp wanted to help the injured Labrador Retriever mix, but was turned away by police. (Photo credit: Dani Juras; James Dougherty/ABC 7 News)

On Wednesday, April 9, a Denver, Colorado, dog lost his life after he was hit by a car two blocks from his home.

But poor Harley, a 14-year-old black Labrador Retriever mix, wasn’t killed instantly by the impact. Nor was he rushed to the emergency veterinarian for immediate treatment — treatment that just might have saved his life.

Instead, the whole neighborhood — and news cameras, too — were forced to look on in horror as Harley struggled for breath, still alive but badly injured.

Juras’s neighbor, Ross Knapp, saw poor Harley lying in the street. Knapp rushed over to where the dog lay struggling to breathe, trying to offer Harley comfort and water. But Denver Police officers quickly banned Knapp from the scene.

“I had one of the officers tells me I had to leave and couldn’t be near it,” Knapp tells Denver’s ABC 7 News of that awful day. “I tried a couple of times to go back and he just finally said I’m impeding on an investigation and if I came back I’d be arrested.”

Knapp remembers standing there, watching Harley slip away, heartbroken that he was prevented from doing more to help. He even begged officers to let him rush Harley to a nearby veterinary hospital.

“It was in shock, its pupils were totally dilated. It couldn’t really move,” Knapp explains.

But officers refused Knapp’s offer, and for 90 agonizing minutes, Harley lay there writhing in the street before he died.

Meanwhile, Harley’s owner, Dani Juras, was on a desperate search for her missing dog. That evening, Juras says Harley, who she has had since Harley was just a puppy, escaped her house through a door her kids had accidentally left open. She says she set out immediately to hunt for Harley, who was wearing a collar and leash but no tags when he escaped.

Juras came home after hours of posting flyers of Harley to scour social media sites for any sign of her dog’s whereabouts when she turned on the news. There, on the screen, was news footage of a dog gasping for air in the street, police standing by doing nothing to help the dog. Juras felt her heart break in two.

“I recognized Harley,” she says. “I wanted to be in disbelief that it was him. I watched the video a couple of times and had others watch it hoping that somebody would say it’s not him.”

Juras is disturbed by the timeline of events that lead to her beloved dog’s death. Police officers responded at 8:30 p.m., but animal control wasn’t notified until fifteen minutes later. The on-duty animal control officer didn’t arrive until 10 p.m., more than excruciating 90 minutes after poor Harley had been hit by the car. Harley died moments before animal control made it to the scene. Juras says she wants the police to be held accountable, not for their actions — but their inaction.

But Denver Police insist they followed proper protocol.

“It’s always about the personal safety of that individual,” explains department spokesman Sonny Jackson. “It’s not trying to be cruel to the animal or cruel to the individual. It’s best if we get the Animal Control people in there, let them do what they do as experts and let them take the actions.”

And Denver Animal Control spokesperson Meghan Hughes explains that while officers always try to respond to a call within an hour, the officer called to assist in Harley’s case was coming from home and hit a patch of traffic on the way.

In response to public criticism, the Denver Police posted a video on YouTube about how to handle wounded pets. In the short video, a veterinarian and animal control officer explain why it is safest to let only professionals handle injured animals. Juras says she is not buying it.

“They bring on a veterinarian who says, ‘Well the animal — if they would’ve moved the animal — this or that could’ve happened,” Juras says of the video. “Well yeah, but instead they just watched him die, instead they let others watch him die. They clearly knew that he was suffocating, that he was gasping for breath and in a situation like that, is the animal going to sue you?”

Dani Juras and Ross Knapp first met while attending a memorial service held for Harley Wednesday night. After Harley’s tragic death Juras says she is grateful Knapp tried so hard to be there with Harley in his last moments.

“I appreciate everything he did to help my dog and try to be there,” Juras says of Knapp, “he must have an amazing heart to try to help in a situation like that.”

Meanwhile, an online petition is making the rounds in Harley’s honor, with nearly 11,000 supporters demanding the Denver Police issue an apology to the community, the Juras family, and, most of all, the late Harley. The petition says the department’s handling of the “delicate situation” demonstrated “a complete lack of tact, respect, professionalism, and compassion.”

Dani Juras just hopes that one day, there will be justice for Harley.

“I wish my dog didn’t have to die alone,” she says.

Sources: TheDenverChannel.com, ABC 7 News Denver, Denver Police Committed Aggravated Cruelty to Animals By Not Saving Harley Facebook page, Change.org