A Baltimore police officer slit the throat of a dog that officers had already detained and now faces felony animal cruelty charges, the department said Wednesday.

The department’s Internal Affairs division is investigating the incident, which police Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere called “outrageous and unacceptable” at a news conference. Officials say they learned of the dog’s killing Monday, two days after it occurred.

Other officers who witnessed the incident have been forthcoming with details, police say, but investigators are trying to determine whether any of them should have disclosed the incident immediately.

The killing of the 7-year-old Shar-Pei named Nala came a day after a Baltimore police officer shot to death a steer in Mount Vernon after it had escaped a slaughterhouse and evaded capture for about 2 miles. That incident is also under department investigation, but officials have defended the officer’s use of force in that case.

In the case of the dog’s death, Baltimore police Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said there was no “viable” way to justify the veteran officer’s actions, which took place in the 700 block of Grundy Street in Brewers Hill.

“We have no words to describe this,” he said.

On June 14, police said, Nala got loose and bit the hand of a woman who tried to catch the dog. Palmere said the wound was superficial. Officers from the Baltimore police’s Southeastern District detained the dog and summoned emergency services officers to the scene.

The emergency services unit handles many duties including assessing barricade situations and providing police crime-scene lighting.

They also carry the long dog-control poles, which can lasso stray dogs safely, Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a Baltimore police spokesman, said.

The Shar-Pei was detained with one of these poles, police said.

At some point, one of the emergency services officers then pulled out a knife and slit its throat, Palmere said. The dog died from its injuries.

“Officers were appalled by what they saw, as were other citizens,” Palmere said.

Rodriguez said no motive or provocation could justify the act. The dog poles are meant to keep animals safely at bay for detainment and the department had “gone through great lengths” to train officers on how to handle almost any situation involving dogs.

“There is no procedure or training that justifies this behavior,” Rodriguez said.

Police did not release the identity of the officer, who they said was being booked Wednesday afternoon. They did not disclose the owner of the dog, either.

— Baltimore Sun