Police delete Facebook page following controversy over dog taking ‘Polar Plunge’

Posted at 1:55 PM, Feb 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-20 13:55:43-05

WILBRAHAM, MA (WSHM) — The official Wilbraham Police Department Facebook page was deleted after an animal abuse controversy arose following an incident during the Polar Plunge event where a dog was pushed into the freezing cold water.

The Polar Plunge was a Special Olympics fundraiser held at Spec Pond on Saturday where people made a donation and were able to jump into the frigid water through man-made hole in the ice. This year, more than 100 people registered and participated in the event.

While temperatures on Saturday lingered in the low teens, one dog owner, whose name has not been disclosed, decided to push his dog into the pond as the animal resisted.

“Special Olympics Massachusetts and Law Enforcement Torch Run in no way condone this action and we are very shocked and disappointed that this happened at what has consistently been a great community event,” Special Olympics Massachusetts said in a statement.

Wilbraham police posted a message to their Facebook wall on Tuesday stating that the department looked into the incident and believes that there wasn’t any abuse or mistreatment of the dog.

“At the end of the event, a dog entered the water with the assistance of its owner. The owner stated that he placed his hand on the dog’s rear at which time the dog entered the water. There was no forceful shove and this is clearly visible within the video.” the statement said.

The photographs were posted on Facebook by a person who accused the event organizers of promoting or failing to stop what was referred to as an animal cruelty incident.

The Wilbraham police statement went on to say, “This owner of the dog did notify LETR of the dog’s participation and the participation was announced to a crowd of over 250 people with no concern. The owner has since been interviewed by WPD and MSPCA officials.”

Special Olympics Massachusetts said that every consideration is taken to ensure that safety is paramount for its participants during events like the Polar Plunge.

“We are troubled that an animal and pet was put into a situation that we in no way, shape or form condoned,” Special Olympics Massachusetts’ said in the statement.

Special Olympics Massachusetts says it plans to look into the incident and take the necessary actions to prevent future incidents.

“Upon viewing the ENTIRE video, the dog is observed running around wagging its tail and rolling around in the snow. The dog was subsequently dried off by the owner and brought into a warm area,” Wilbraham police wrote in their Faecbook statement.

As of Wednesday morning, the Wilbraham Police Department Facebook page had been deleted. Facebook allows its users to temporarily delete Facebook pages with the ability to restore them in the future.

While the Polar Plunge is sponsored by the Wilbraham Police Department, which also participated in the event, it is not a Wilbraham police event, the department’s Facebook page stated.