Dog owners lobby for police training to avoid shootings

Lawmaker: 37 dogs shot by police in last 5 years

DENVER - Dozens of dog owners, with their dogs in tow, converged on the west steps of the State Capitol Wednesday to show support for a bill that would require police departments to train officers on how to better handle dog encounters.

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. David Balmer, R-Arapahoe County, and Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, and Rep. Don Coram, R-Dolores County, cited alarming statistics which show that 37 dogs have been shot by police officers in Colorado over the last five years.

Choking back tears, an emotional Brittany Moore recounted for lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee how her dog, Ava, was shot dead by an Erie police officer in May of 2011.

“We called for help about a harassing phone call,” Moore said. “I walked over to tell the officer he was at the wrong address and that’s when he saw the dogs.”

Moore said Ava, her German Shepherd, and Ivy, her Golden Retriever, started approaching the officer.

“Ava had a Rawhide bone in her mouth,” she said. “When the officer saw the dogs, he started backing up and shot Ava.”

Moore told 7NEWS that neither of her dogs displayed aggression.

“The Rawhide bone fell from her mouth and she made the most awful sound that I have ever heard and immediately fell to the ground,” Moore said.

She added that it was doubly difficult to explain to her young daughter’s what happened.

“I will never forget the sounds of my daughters’ tortuous cries that night,” she said.

“These are situations where there is no violent crime call,” Balmer said.

Balmer’s bill would require that police departments train officers in how to handle dogs without using lethal force, like Arvada currently does.

“I think it will be good to have a statewide standard on how the training is done,” the senator said.

Jeff Fisher was among those testifying in favor of the bill.

His dog, Ziggy, was shot and killed in January by an Adams County deputy who responded to the wrong address.  That deputy was not charged.

“I think if this law was in place the day Ziggy was shot, it would have made a huge difference,” Fisher said. “I think he’d still be with us today.”

“It’s happening far too frequently,” said Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center.

Edwards, who helped write the bill, said “This is a pro-police, pro-dog, pro-Senate Bill 226 day.”

The bill passed 5 – 0 in the Senate Judiciary Committee without anyone speaking in opposition.

“You know, dogs are bi-partisan,” Edwards said. “Everybody loves dogs. It doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you are on.”

Senate Bill 226 will be heard on the Senate floor Friday.

If it passes in the Senate, it will move on to the house.

“If you can train an officer to understand dogs the first time they deal with them,” Balmer said, “and have a positive outcome, they will be more confident.  If the officer feels more confident about the dogs, the dogs will bark less.”

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