Debra J. Saunders

 People who criticize the police shooting don't understand what could have happened. John Furrier, the Palo Alto resident whose dog Kelsey chased the puma, said, "This cat came off the tree after the shooting and leapt with power into the next yard, fatally wounded." If a fatally wounded cat could bound so far, imagine what might have happened if police had used a dart that takes 20 minutes or more to work. No one knows.

 Furrier's children, Tyler, age 2, and Caroline, 3, were playing in the yard when Kelsey began barking at the puma. If the dog hadn't confronted the lion, it might have attacked his tots and dragged them away. Now, there's a shrine in Furrier's neighborhood for the fallen mountain lion.

 "What would the shrine have been like for my kids?" Furrier asked.

 What kind of shrine indeed? Bay Area residents have been known to show more empathy for animals than for children. In 1994, a mountain lion attacked and killed a 40-year-old mother of two as she was jogging in El Dorado County. Authorities tracked down and killed the mountain lion.

 Concerned citizens pledged $21,000 to fund a home for the cougar's orphaned cub at the Folsom, Calif., Zoo, while a trust fund for Barbara Schoener's two children received only $9,000. It took Rush Limbaugh making the disparity a national cause before the children's trust attracted more money than the lion cub's fund.

 If children take a back seat to animals, imagine the status of police officers. While many residents know the police did the right thing, others have been quick to assume that the police were trigger-happy. I can't imagine any police officer who would enjoy downing such an exquisite animal. It's a thankless chore done for one reason: to save lives.

 Maybe there's some guilt behind the criticism. Savvy Californians understand that we have encroached on animal habitat -- which is why authorities at times must kill mountain lions and other wildlife. Perhaps some believe that if they side with the animals, that somehow absolves them of the blood shed in their defense.

 But it doesn't. It only makes them ingrates who don't appreciate the people who risk their lives to keep their communities safe.

Debra J. Saunders

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