Law requires officers to train for dog encounters

By Joe Hanel
Journal Denver Bureau

DENVER – Brittany Moore’s German Shepherd, Ava, was standing in the driveway with a rawhide bone in her mouth when a police officer’s bullet pierced the dog’s back.

The Erie police officer told her he had no choice but to kill the dog after responding to her house in May 2011.

“I raised my girls to trust police officers. They no longer do. My girls will never again get good-night kisses from Ava,” Moore said.

Moore told her story to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday while testifying for a bill to require police officers to get training on how to deal with dogs without shooting them.

Moore had called police because she received a threatening phone call, according to court documents. Erie Police deny her allegations, but officials have refused to comment to the press because Moore has a lawsuit pending against the department in federal court.

But Moore’s story is just one of more than 30 across Colorado reported by Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, the author of Senate Bill 226. A disabled woman in Pagosa Springs recently lost her dog to a law enforcement shooting, according to Balmer, but she did not testify Tuesday.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is carrying the bill in the House.

The bill requires law enforcement agencies to put their officers through a three-hour training on how to deal with dogs by the beginning of 2015. A volunteer task force will create the training curriculum.

Training will be done online, not in person.

“It’s a tool to educate law enforcement. It educates them, and it also gives them some protection should they have to use force,” Coram said.

The County Sheriffs of Colorado support the bill, said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson.

Police are not adequately prepared to deal with dogs now, Robinson said, and officers sometimes have to make decisions they’re not trained to make.

“They have to act within seconds when other folks get an opportunity to evaluate their behavior over days and weeks and months,” he said.

SB 226 has already passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House Judiciary Committee on an 11-0 vote Tuesday, and it’s on track to make it through the full House by the end of the week.

If the bill passes, it would make Colorado the first state in the country with this type of training, said Deborah Foote of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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