Colorado's Dog Protection Act was signed into law in April 2013 by Governor John Hickenlooper. The law is the first of its kind in the nation. All officers will require training by December 2014. After the signing of the law a meeting took place in August 2013 between police officers and dog behaviorists to review details and develop a new plan as part of the Dog Protection Act. The goal is to eliminate the number of non-aggressive dogs shot by police. During the last five years about 40 dogs in Colorado have been shot and killed by police. Citizens and dog lovers are eager to see a stop to such senseless killings.
As was quoted on Live With Dogs website, “Unfortunately police officers do shoot dogs from time to time when they feel threatened by a vicious or aggressive dog,” said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “When they do occur, it is difficult for pet owners to see the circumstances in the same way an officer sees them – understandably they do not see their pet as being aggressive and potentially harmful to an officer. It is also difficult for the officers.”
Before officers uphold the law, they will be educated and trained on how to deal with dogs. The law requires sheriff and police departments to offer three-hour online courses teaching officers how to recognize and understand dog behaviors, as well as use how to use non-lethal methods to control situations and keep from needlessly shooting a potentially harmless dog.
The legislation includes provisions allowing officers to use discretion; officer's personal safety is one such consideration. Such a provision leads many to question how the law will lead to honest change. At the least, once the law is enforced, officers will not be able to to claim they fired on a dog because it was the only means by which they were trained.
When officers respond to a call of a violent crime or a drug house, dogs present in such settings will not be protected by the law. In addition, sheriff’s deputies placed in courts or jails do not have to take the training, and neither will code enforcement officers.
The County Sheriffs of Colorado supports and helped write the new law. The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police were also involved in the legislation, and a number of police departments are already offering their officers training on dog behaviors. The complete law may be read here.
Laws are written to protect society. Even if the three-hour on-line courses doesn't eliminate all unnecessary killing of dogs, any additional education for officers is a step in the right direction. As important, dog owners must maintain their dogs in a safe, secure environment. If a dog escapes, unbeknownst to an owner, the fear and insecurity the dog may display may be contrary to the dog's true nature, but fear of being in an unfamiliar setting could result in the dog acting in an unnatural way. The law is a start to help end the senseless killing of dogs Coloradans have witnessed in the past.
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