Humane Canine Response Training Act
Sec. 1. Purpose
The shooting of dogs by police officers has escalated as so many people now keep dogs as companion animals. Many of the shootings have been lethal, involving an excessive use of force, even though a number of tragic outcomes could have been avoided with proper training in dealing with animal encounters. Police officers who have not been afforded the opportunity to learn how to react around dogs tend to be more easily frightened of a possible attack and will see aggressive behavior where there is only curiosity or benign intent on the part of the dog. Too often, the mere presence of a dog at the scene of an investigation can bring out a "shoot first" mentality in even veteran police officers, resulting in the death of someone's beloved companion animal.
This bill requires law enforcement agencies to include a humane response component in officer training that will provide guidelines for appropriate law enforcement response to animal abuse, cruelty, and neglect, or similar conditions, as well as training on canine behavior and nonlethal ways to subdue a canine.
Sec. 2. Definitions
For the purposes of this act:
- "Dog" means any canine animal owned for domestic, companionship, service, therapeutic, assistance, sporting, working, ranching, or shepherding purposes.
- "Dog owner" means a person owning, possessing, harboring, keeping, having guardianship of, having financial or property interest in, or having control or custody of a dog.
- "Licensed veterinarian" means a person who is licensed to practice veterinary medicine in this state.
- "Law enforcement agency" means a municipal police department, county sheriff's office, or a state police department.
- "Law enforcement officer" means any officer in a law enforcement agency. The term does not include an animal control officer, code enforcement officer, or a deputy sheriff who is assigned exclusively to work in jails, court security, or administration.
Sec. 3. New Provision
- Humane response training
- Each law enforcement agency is required to provide to its officers training pertaining to encounters with dogs in the course of duty. This training must include a visual and participatory component as well as comprehension testing of written policies and procedures as listed in Section 3(A)(c).
- Training Program
- In establishing the Training Program, a law enforcement agency shall adopt any minimum training curricula developed by the state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board or other agency as required in Section 3 (B)(b).
- The Training Program must be wholly or principally provided or overseen by either a qualified animal behavior expert or licensed veterinarian.
- In order to reduce the costs of providing the training program, a law enforcement agency may develop its own online or video-based training or utilize such training developed by the state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
- A law enforcement agency may collaborate with other law enforcement agencies, the [state or local] veterinary medical association, as well as nonprofit organizations engaged in animal welfare, to develop the Training Program.
- The curricula, qualifications, and online or video-based instruction described in this sub-section must be readily accessible by law enforcement agencies on each agency's internal website.
- Written Policies and Procedures for Encounters with Dogs
- In addition to the Training Program in Section 3(A)(b), each law enforcement agency shall adopt written policies and procedures that are developed by the state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. The policies and procedures developed by the state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board shall serve as a baseline for law enforcement agencies.
- This component shall be integrated into basic training for law enforcement officers no later than [60 days] after development of a program by the state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
- Law enforcement officers shall be tested for comprehension of these policies and procedures during training.
- This section is not intended to apply to situations in which a dog is shot accidentally, including when a local law enforcement officer intends to fire at a person but inadvertently shoots a dog.
- Humane Response Training Curriculum
- The state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board shall, within 6 months after passage of this Act:
- Develop minimum training curricula that law enforcement agencies must use to fulfill the training requirement in Section 3(A)(b), including:
- Minimum written policies and procedures designed to address encounters with dogs occurring in the course of duty and the use of force against such dogs;
- The appropriate minimum qualifications, including education, experience, or skills that an animal behavior expert or licensed veterinarian providing the training requirement in Section 3(A)(b) must possess; and
- The development of online or video-based training that may be utilized by law enforcement agencies to fulfill the training requirement in Section 3(A)(b).
- Approve the adoption of a training curriculum, including the elements in Section 3 (B) (a), above, from an independent outside agency or organization.. This curriculum shall address:
- The identification and meaning of common canine behaviors, and differentiating between dogs that are exhibiting behavior that puts local law enforcement officers or other persons in imminent danger and dogs who are not engaging in such behavior;
- The alternatives to lethal use of force against dogs;
- The reasonable opportunity for a dog owner to control or remove his or her dog from the immediate area. This opportunity must take into account the totality of the circumstances, including: the officer's own safety and the safety of other persons in the area, the availability of nonlethal equipment, the feasibility of so allowing a dog owner to act considering the totality of the circumstances, including the presence of an animal control officer, or whether the call is at a location at which illegal narcotics are suspected to be manufactured or trafficked, or any exigencies that may be present, such as when the local law enforcement officer is responding to a call that asserts or suggests that a person has been bitten by a dog or is in physical danger.
- The state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board may, in developing their curriculum, consult with:
- Licensed veterinarians;
- Representatives of animal welfare agencies;
- Animal behaviorists or animal behavior experts;
- Members of the veterinary medical association, with expertise in canine behavior or other animal behavior;
- Representatives of the [state] association of animal control officers;
- Representatives of the [state] associations of chiefs of police, preferably someone with experience working in a K-9 unit;
- Sheriffs or deputy sheriffs representing county sheriffs;
- A representative of the fraternal order of police; and
- Members of the state or local bar association, including attorneys with expertise and experience in animal law and dog shooting cases.
In 2013, approximately 80 million dogs were living in 56.7 million U.S. households, with 63 percent of those households regarding them as members of the family. There are many cases in which officers shoot dogs that are not attacking or showing overt signs of aggression toward the officers. While many officer encounters with dogs end well, encounters that end in the death of dogs are becoming more prevalent. This is a problem that occurs all over the country in staggering numbers (30 dogs shot in Colorado over a 5-year period versus 187 dogs shot in Houston in 2009 alone).
Dog shootings appear to occur under one of two circumstances:
- Directly related to the animal (e.g. a dog running at large) or
- Indirectly involving a dog as an innocent bystander ("e.g. officers executing a warrant feel threatened by a barking dog and before assessing the level of danger or even giving the owner a chance to restrain or confine the dog, they shoot him.")
Because there is no national record or database that is tracking dog shootings, it is hard to tell if incidents are on the rise; however, these incidents can be greatly mitigated through effective training of law enforcement officers. Training officers on dog behavior can help them identify when a dog is truly showing signs of aggression and is a potential menace to them or to the public. Training officers on the use of nonlethal alternatives, such as pepper spray or using a catch pole, can reduce companion animal deaths and spare suffering to the animals and their owners. Additionally, teaching officers about identifying dog behavior may lessen the amount of breed discrimination against pit-bull type dogs, who are often shot simply based on prejudice. Requiring law enforcement officers to have body-worn cameras would also provide a valuable training tool, while at the same time documenting encounters with dogs that would be helpful for investigating and resolving complaints.
Training law enforcement officers on how to deal effectively and safely with dogs should be incorporated in every law enforcement training school in the country, for the safety of both law enforcement officers and the dogs they encounter on a regular basis.
Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 29-5-12 (West 2013)
50 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 705/10.14 (West 2014)
Tenn. Code Ann. § 38-8-117 (West 2004)