The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters

April 16, 2013

The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters is the name of a publication available for download as a PDF document from the National Canine Research Council(NCRC). This 52 page booklet can be downloaded from the link above and is filled with information every police cadet, as well as seasoned officers, should have to read. A final test on the material contained wouldn’t be a bad idea.

This booklet was published through the Community Oriented Policing Services(COPS) and the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s filled with useful information that can save a dogs life. It’s tragic that family dogs are being killed by police due to the ignorance of officers everywhere who should set an example, instead of going off half-cocked and shooting any dog that comes in their direction.

Not only does this publication use lawsuit examples to warn police of the consequences of shooting a family dog, it also offers easy to understand advice. There are also drawings and photographs showing the different stances a dog may take to show fear, friendliness or aggression. This is one area where police tend to suffer confusion.

Some major points of The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters that police need to pay close attention to include:
* An approaching dog: Most dogs happily greet a new human. Some will be so enthusiastic about greeting that they will do this at a full run and then launch themselves at the officer. Absent any of the warning signals such as barking or lunging. A dog who feels threatened will usually try to keep his distance
* Body posture: Is the dog loose and wriggly or is it stiff? Full body wags mean the dog is friendly. The dog that solicits attention by wriggling, curving the body almost into a “C” shape, and approaching with head low and to the side is anxious for attention but a little afraid
* Departments should adopt written policies on proper responses to situations involving potentially dangerous animals that reflect a force-continuum approach. It should be emphasized that the necessity to shoot a dog is rare in most situations

The publication goes on to emphasize the importance of training in dog behavior, access to animal control officers to assist, and non-lethal methods to subdue a family dog. Several articles carried in police vehicles can be used against an attacking dog. Some examples are road flares, a fire extinguisher or even an umbrella. Pepper or Citronella spray was also shown to be effective in controlling an aggressive dog.

An interesting point brought up concerns the use of Tasers by police. Tasing a dog must be done differently than when used on a person. Since a dog’s body mass in horizontal, a Taser must be held sideways to spread perpendicular to the body. It must also be used at a closer distance, preferably less than 10 feet.

The booklet also offers a spot-on definition for an “insufficiently trained police officer.” Any officer who judges a dog by its breed instead of its behavior and believes any dog coming toward them is about to attack is in need of training. So are officers who lack knowledge of animal welfare groups, skills in reading dog body language or are inept at communicating with family dogs.

Another good point this publication brought up was on the impression an officer would make in the public eye if witnessed killing a family dog. Even if a dog bite is suffered, that’s usually insufficient grounds to kill the dog. There are NO reported instances of a dog bite killing a police officer anywhere in the U.S.

Not only do police officers need training in dog behavior, they also need to take the topic seriously and with a good attitude. No amount of training will help an officer with a genuine dislike or fear of dogs. This publication from COPS and the U.S. DOJ is an excellent beginning, and a copy needs to be signed off on by every police officer.

Readers, please download the PDF document and leave comments here after reading it as to whether or not you agree this is an excellent training tool.

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