By Garth Kant
Many people consider dogs to be part of the family, and citizens in Colorado are tired of police shooting those family members.
It has happened at least a half-dozen times in the past five years, and now lawmakers have had enough.
Two Colorado state senators plan to introduce a bill requiring police departments to adopt policies and procedures for dealing with dogs.
Sens. Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat, and David Balmer, a Centennial Republican, say they want officers to distinguish between a barking dog and a dangerous dog.
Balmer says, “Landscaping companies, delivery companies – they deal with dogs all the time, and they don’t shoot dogs.”
The bill would require officers to take a two-hour training course and a one-hour refresher course every year. The legislation would allow pet owners to handle the pet before officers take action. It also includes exceptions for using force, when the dog is dangerous or there is a violent crime.
The bill was sparked by a series of dog shootings by police that caused public outrage.
Commerce City police killed a pit-bull mix named Chloe outside the dog’s home last November. Video showed police tase the dog then shoot it five times while it was on an animal-control noose.
Owner Gary Branson said, “It’s like losing a family member.”
Chloe got loose and was running around the neighborhood while Branson was out of town. He had left her with a relative. Commerce City police claimed the dog was aggressive, even while restrained on the noose. Now, Commerce City police Officer Robert Price faces a felony charge of aggravated cruelty to animals. The state Fraternal Order of Police calls that “outrageous.”
It’s not just pit-bull mixes getting shot.
An Adams County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed an 8-year-old Blue Heeler-Border Collie mix named Ziggy in January. The deputy had gone to the wrong house.
Ziggy’s owner, Jeff Fisher, told a local television station, “All he wanted to do was play, that’s it.”
Erie Police shot and killed a German Shepard named Ava outside the dog’s home in 2011.
Owner Brittany Moore said she still hasn’t recovered.
“It’s hard, it’s hard. My three daughters, they don’t trust police officers anymore. They will always remember that a police officer shot their dog,” Moore said.
“Ava was not acting aggressive in any way,” Moore added. “She had a rawhide bone in her mouth … she wasn’t lunging or growling or baring her teeth. Nothing.”
Balmer said he has been working with law enforcement on the bill, and it should be introduced to the Judiciary Committee in a few weeks.
“We think the bill strikes the right balance,” he said. “It is very respectful of law enforcement, but it is intended to safeguard our beloved dogs.”