After pet shootings, bill proposed to require special dog training for police

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by Hendrik Sybrandy

DENVER -- It's happened at least a half dozen times in the past five years but two Colorado lawmakers believe they have an answer for dog shootings by police: training. Sen. David Balmer and Sen. Lucia Guzman will introduce a bill this coming week that requires police officers to undergo two hours of canine behavior training.

"We believe that police departments will take this responsibility very seriously, that they will develop new policies and new training methods and that they will actually help the officers to not shoot dogs unnecessarily," said Sen. Balmer on Saturday. His bill was prompted, in part, by the shooting of Ava, a four-year-old German Shepherd, by an Erie police officer in May, 2011.

"Ava was not acting aggressive in any way," said Brittany Moore, Ava's owner. "She had a rawhide bone in her mouth... she wasn't lunging or growling or baring her teeth. Nothing."

Several other recent dog shootings lead Balmer to believe that education is the answer. His bill would also ask officers to give dog owners first crack at deescalating a situation if the officers feel threatened by a pet while out on a call. Balmer admitted his bill lacks real enforcement teeth but he said a number of police departments are on board with his idea.

"At the end of the day it's important that we understand how much people love their dogs and that's what this bill is all about," he said.