Law enforcement officers have and do shoot dogs and other animals when necessary.

When it comes to pets, however, the data is not clear. A recent allegation by a poor source says police officers shoot about 10,000 pets a year. It has been discounted, yet it has been repeatedly published. Foggier still is how many of the dogs that are shot belong to Black or Latinx owners in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

The bottom line is, no one knows for sure what is real and what is not because reporting is not uniform from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

It seems reasonable that if an officer is charged by vicious dogs, perhaps lethal force is not only necessary, but expedient. That’s where we fall into traps within our own thoughts. Let’s ask this, what if cops were trained to recognize truly vicious dogs versus just the mouthy pooches that like to bark and charge? Is that possible? Is it reasonable? The answer to both questions is “yes.”

In Texas, Canine Encounters Law Enforcement Training provides a course called Defensive Tactics: Canine Encounters. For $40 and eight hours of an officer’s time, they can become confident in canine threat assessment.

This class is designed to offer officers who encounter dogs on their jobs to develop a better perception on how to deal with these encounters. Officers learn both what to do when they encounter a dog and how to defend against an attacking dog.

They learn what the effects of pepper spray is on dogs. And if one watches the first video mentioned below, you can see it works, but not for long like it does with people. Dogs don’t lay around and whine like humans do and accept the sympathy of their friends. Instead, they wipe the stuff off on the ground and rejoin the chase.

You’ve got to figure several million years as wolves getting sprayed by skunks probably committed that to learning.

Officers learn when to use a Taser on dogs and how to properly use a baton on a dog if needed.

“Officers across the United States have longed to take interest in their canine encounters using less-lethal techniques, so to protect the officer and the dog on the street, officers will learn how to skillfully use the knowledge they learn in this training course and how they can apply it on the job,” reads the course flyer.

On YouTube you can see this training in action here: bit.ly/3fdsx0z. Officer David Gomez of the Meridian, Idaho, Police Department charms a couple of barking, snarling canines into the back of his car after having to spray one with pepper spray.

And still, there are the times when dogs can be extremely dangerous. One of the most vicious attacks shown by news media was in 1987 in California. A young animal control officer is sent to investigate a vicious dog report. A CBS News crew is along doing a bigger story on pit bull terriers.

The example is shown here: bit.ly/3efGsBQ. It is a disaster from the beginning. The angry owner unleashes the dog on the animal control officer after saying, “Benjie is coming out. If you don’t want to get bit, you better leave now.” The officer suffers severe hand and chest injuries and the owner was eventually convicted of a felony assault.

There were at least two videos and once the dog latched on and would not let go, viewers could see the officer immediately start to go into shock. The blood drained from her terrified face. It is unlikely the unarmed officer ever returned to service.

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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