Responding to a recent spate of trigger-happy cops blowing away the family pet under questionable circumstances, the Colorado Senate passed a bill on Tuesday requiring law enforcement officers be trained to recognize when they’re truly being threatened by an aggressive dog and not simply one that’s frightened or playful.
The bill was spurred by recent high-profile incidents in which cops shot and killed nonthreatening dogs, including one in which an officer killed a dog — reported as stray, but which had actually slipped out of its owner’s garage — after it was already restrained by animal control using a catch pole.
If the bill becomes law, it will be the first of its kind in the country, requiring sheriffs’ deputies and police officers to undergo three hours of online training to recognize signs of various behaviors in dogs. The training will also teach them how to use nonlethal methods of controlling them. The course will be developed by veterinarians and animal behavior specialists.
The Denver Dumb Friends League, an animal shelter and adoption organization, sent an email blast to its members over the weekend, urging support of the bill.
“Colorado has a high rate of dog ownership, which means that local law enforcement officers routinely encounter dogs while performing their duties,” the email said.
“Some of these officers may not have much experience dealing with dogs and are unfamiliar with typical dog behaviors, occasionally resulting in the unnecessary use of firearms against dogs.”
In November, police in Commerce City responded to a dog at large call and shot and killed a Labrador/pit bull mix named Chloe. They initially claimed that the dog was aggressive and that officers had no choice but to shoot to kill.
But the incident was caught on videotape by a neighbor, which contradicted the police department’s version of events. In it, the dog is Tasered before it’s captured on a catch pole with a noose on the end. Then, while the dog is restrained, an officer fires five times, killing the animal.
The officer was eventually charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals. He is due in court on April 15.
Not long after that incident, Adams County sheriffs’ deputies shot and killed a border collie/blue heeler mix after they went to the wrong business responding to an alarm.
“Something has got to be done about it,” attorney Jennifer Edwards told CBS Denver. “They’re taking our family members and I don’t care that they’re the furry family members, they’re family members no less.”
According to the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, Colorado law enforcement killed 37 dogs in the line of duty in the past five years. The bill now moves on to the House.
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