Austin, Texas, is on the verge of becoming a lot dog friendlier — and in a way much more important than most of those measured by websites and magazines in assessing dog friendliness.
The Austin Police Department announced Tuesday that, effective July 1, there will be several changes to policies and training concerning how officers deal with dogs.
The new rules clarify that lethal force can be used only if there is “imminent danger of bodily harm” to officers or another human, not when a dog is simply acting aggressively.
It also suggests alternatives to deadly force, including firing a Taser or using pepper spray, or simply yelling at a dog.
Assistant Police Chief David Carter said dog shootings by officers will get increased scrutiny, and any officer using deadly force against a dog will have to explain why lesser force was not used. Each incident will be reviewed by the entire chain of command, as opposed to just the officer’s sergeant.
Other improvements include having dispatchers inform officers when they are going to homes that have histories of dangerous dogs being present. In those cases, city animal control officers will also be sent there.
In addition, cadets at the training academy will undergo a two-hour session on how to deal with dogs, including how to read a dog’s body language and judge whether it is dangerous. Current officers will complete training sessions online and before shifts, he said.
“It raises the stature” of dog shootings, Carter said. “We need to be as accountable for the shooting of a dog as any other force.”
The changes in Austin come in the wake of a backlash over the fatal shooting of a man’s dog in East Austin in April, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Officer Thomas Griffin was dispatched to a domestic disturbance in late April but was sent to the wrong address, where he shot a blue heeler named Cisco after the dog, according to his account, charged at him. Cisco’s owner, Michael Paxton, has denied that the dog was being aggressive.
Carter said the investigation into the case found no policy violations and Griffin received no discipline.
Since then, though, the department has been looking at the policies of other law enforcement agencies around the country to determine the best practices when it comes to dog encounters, Carter said.
“Quite frankly, we learned a lot from this process,” he said. “We learned a lot from the community, who had great concern about it.”
Paxton, meanwhile, has filed a complaint against Griffin with the police monitor’s office and has retained a lawyer.
“It’s sad that my dog had to die for this to happen,” he said.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggresive, animal control, animals, austin, behavior, cisco, dangerous, deadly force, department, dog friendly, dog killings, dogs, firearms, force, killings, law enforcement, lethal force, pets, police, policies, practices, review, shooting, texas, training
The King County Animal Shelter in Kent, Washington acted appropriately when it euthanized a stray dog known as Buddy, a county review of the case has concluded. But the couple that picked him up off the street still disagrees with the choice.
Buddy’s death June 17 outraged the Auburn couple that found him wandering in traffic 13 days earlier. Jim Giuntoli, who rescued Buddy with his wife, Kim, said the dog was friendly and “would have made an adorable pet.”
But Carolyn Ableman, who oversees animal shelters for the county, said Buddy, a black Lab mix was so aggressive toward other animals he couldn’t safely be put up for adoption.
Those reviewing the case said Buddy snapped at the animal-control officer who first put him into a truck. He was reported to act dominantly over other dogs and snarled at an officer who intervened when Buddy attacked a kennel mate over food. A veterinarian on the review team said Buddy “represented a potential threat to public safety and therefore was not a suitable candidate” for adoption.
Jim Giuntoli disagrees. “They didn’t give Buddy a fair chance to even make it out of the shelter alive,” he said.
After Buddy’s death, the Giuntolis removed from the Kent shelter two other dogs they had rescued and took them to the Humane Society in Bellevue. One was quickly adopted out. The other is now at Seattle-based Animals First Foundation, where founder Carina Borja said he shows no signs of aggressiveness.
The county shelters in Kent and Bellevue have been under close scrutiny since independent reports over the past year said they are overcrowded and animals are held in inhumane, unhealthy conditions, according to the Seattle Times.
(Photo by Jim Giuntoli)