Police officers in Austin, Texas, will soon undergo training to help decrease the number of dogs shot by officers. The training will focus on teaching officers how to spot the difference between a dog that is attacking and a playful or curious dog. The department is hoping the training will help curb the number of dogs shot by police officers on their force.
According to KSAT, the training is the result of public outcry following a few high-profile dog shootings by police officers. One of the high-profile cases being the Cisco the Dog case which garnered national attention when police officer shot Cisco the dog point-blank after responding to a call at the wrong address. Another case involved the shooting of a pit bull when officers responded to an auto theft call. In the case, the dog was shot in the head and then shot a second time as it was retreating back to its home.
The Austin American Statesman reports that the department is spending $12,000 to train its 1700 police officers. With 38 officers at Leander Police Department already undergoing the training thanks to a grant. During the training of the Leander Police Department, Jim Osoria, a canine instructor, noted that many dog shootings by police officers occur when a dog is running toward an unfamiliar officer, so it’s important to know the difference between one that is attacking (tail straight up, ears pointed forward) and one that is coming to investigate or play (tail wagging and ears up).
In the four-hour class, officers are taught how to identify aggressive dogs as well as how to use nonlethal force on dogs instead of lethal force. In the class, Osoria’s highly trained search and rescue dog, Coral, demonstrates different behaviors so officers can learn to read dog body language. The police department notes that prior to this real-life training course, the police officers were only required to sit through a short video on the topic.
Leander Police Cheif Greg Minton said, “It has opened their eyes.” Minton mandated the training for his police force after one of his officers shot and wounded Vinny, a German shepherd therapy dog, in June 2013 while trying to serve a warrant at the wrong address. Minton wanted the public to know that the police officers are trained to deal with aggressive people, and had limited training in dealing with dogs prior to Osoria’s training.
“I would like people to understand that we don’t have a thorough understanding of dogs. We’re trained to deal with violent and aggressive people.”
What do you think of the new mandate that police officers must undergo dog behavior training to work with the Austin police force? Should all police forces adopt this new policy?