Legislators Find a Cause That They Can All Agree On

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Randy and Dottie Sloan's dogs (credit: CBS)

Randy and Dottie Sloan’s dogs (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Who knew that the secret to achieving true bipartisanship in Colorado’s legislature was dogs? That’s right, smack dab in the middle of a politically contentious session, legislators from across the aisle came together to pass a bill with unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate.

In fact, the bill, which will require three hours of training for all police officers and sheriff’s departments, also received the endorsement of the Colorado Sheriff’s Association.

It seems that despite all of the negative political news lately, people from many different walks of life can indeed come together in order to support something for the common good.

Admittedly, while the safety and welfare of our family dogs are good enough reasons to bring politicians together, the bill had two other key factors working for it.

SB 226, dubbed the Dog Protection Act, arrived at a level of training that made sense, could be done at minimal expense, and found a way to pay for it without using one dime from taxpayers.

The bill’s sponsors, Senator Lucia Guzman (D), Senator David Balmer (R), Representative Lois Court (D) and Representative Don Coram (R), wisely took action on an issue that was not only near and dear to dog owners’ hearts, but also did it in a way that could avoid problems with funding and political problems with law enforcement.

The proof that this was effective law making at its best is how the elected officials involved are now getting calls from other state governments inquiring how they did it, potentially setting the stage for similar laws in other states. That’s especially poignant since Colorado will, after Gov. Hickenlooper signs the bill, become the first state in the country to adopt such a measure.

Sadly, while this bill was crafted well enough for unanimous votes in the House and the Senate, the true motivation for passage came from some high profile tragic shootings of family dogs in both in Commerce City and in Adams County.

The police officer involved in the shooting in Commerce City, infamously captured on a neighbor’s camera, is facing felony charges for animal cruelty in the incident. He stands as a poster child for why this bill was actually needed and not already part of a common sense training repertoire for law enforcement.

I wrote a blog entry back in January after the shooting in Adams County, asking if we were seeing a trend in police versus animal incidents. Gratefully, the trend did not continue, but it still intrigues me that law enforcement allowed legislators to take the lead in making changes and did not take the initiative after several high profile incidents.

I understand that our law enforcement officers are charged with upholding the laws, not crafting them, but I figured that with the kind of public outcry on this issue and the fact that we were talking about internal training of officers, that law enforcement would take the lead.

But, fortunately that is water under the bridge at this point. It doesn’t matter who took the reins to create the change, what does matter is that the change happened.

Thanks to an historic bipartisan proposal and unanimous support, our state lawmakers have worked to make sure that our law enforcement officers are even more armed than usual. This time though, they will be armed with the knowledge of how to handle situations with animals and hopefully avoid the needless shooting of another family dog.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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