California Considers Training For Cops On Handling Dogs

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – New legislation aims to reduce the number of dogs that die during a police investigation. The Police Canine Protection Act would require police officers to go through mandatory training to learn how to safely respond to unexpected encounters with dogs.

“It was very important for us to start a conversation and for us to be able to address this issue,” said Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), who wrote Assembly Bill 1199.

An estimated 10,000 pet dogs are killed each year by police. AB 1199 aims to cut that number down and require officers to learn how to read a dog before firing a weapon. It would apply to all state and local officers, as well sheriff’s deputies.

“I think all training is good,” said Gina Knepp, Manager of Front Street Animal Shelter. “It certainly couldn’t hurt for officers to learn a little bit more to protect themselves and the animals that they come into contact with.”

Knepp has worked at the shelter for six years and says officers typically learn more about animal behavior the more time they spend on the job.

“An aggressive dog doesn’t tell lies,” she said. “I mean, It’s obvious. The ones that are more fearful often are more dangerous.”

Stockton Police Officers had to deal with two loose pit bulls near City Hall in 2015. They shot one dog after it attacked a man. In fact, police encounter a pet dog on one of every three house calls.

The Police Canine Protection Act would require all law enforcement officers to go through the dog training. The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training would conduct the training.

It would include learning about:

  • Dog behavior and body language
  • Best practices to use during encounters with dogs
  • And the appropriate use of force

The California Sheriff’s Association opposes the bill saying POST already has “existing training” on the topic and a “current budget shortfall.”

In Sacramento and Elk Grove police departments, dog training is voluntary, but not required.

“A two-hour class isn’t going to make you an expert on dog behavior, but increasing awareness is always good to keep the officer safe and the animal safe,” Knepp said.

If approved, local agencies would pay for the training and then be reimbursed by the state.

“If we can incorporate this into the training of officers at the most reduced and effective form of cost, then that is something that we are looking into to see how we can make sure that this is implemented,” Nazarian said.

Texas recently passed a law requiring 4 hours of in-class training and found it very effective at reducing pet dog fatalities.

More from Macy Jenkins
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