DENVER (CBS4) – A task force made up of police and pet lovers met Wednesday to begin implementing a new law aimed at protecting dogs in tense police situations.
The task force will develop training for officers across the state and Colorado is the first state to require the training.
It’s a law that all 100 Democrat and Republican lawmakers in Colorado approved. It requires 3 hours of online training for every officer in the state to teach them how to control dogs in volatile settings without killing them.
The law was prompted by shootings in Erie, Commerce City, Adams County and some 40 other cases in the last 5 years in which pets were killed by police responding to a call.
“It’s happening way, way too much,” said Brittany Moore, whose dog was shot and killed by a police officer.
Moore is among 17 volunteers on the task force charged with implementing the law by developing first-of-its-kind training for police.
“Now we sit here today to change the paradigm, the way law enforcement handles dog encounters,” said Jennifer Edwards, an animal defense attorney.
The task force brings together animal behavior experts, dog owners, veterinarians and law enforcement.
“You always need to try to endeavor to put the other person’s shoes on when you’re having a discussion,” said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial.
Balmer is the bill’s sponsor and he admits their job is complicated. The training doesn’t apply when an officer is responding to a violent crime.
“An officer still has flexibility to make the gut-wrenching decisions that they make on daily basis,” Balmer said.
But he says the goal is to make the decisions better when they are faced with split second decisions.
“I think this is going to be the first step into bringing trust back into police officers, to get them the training that they need,” Moore said.
Some task force members said there should also be some hands-on training for officers that need it, but lawmakers did not approve any funding with the new law, so it would all have to come from donations.
The training must be in place by January of 2015.