In an effort to curb the number of incidents of police shooting innocent family dogs, Colorado legislators are proposing a bill to protect dogs.
“We are concerned that there have been a number of incidents where law enforcement have shot dogs. We can initiate a program where law enforcement would receive training and better understand how dogs behave and better understand the difference between a barking dog and a dog that’s actually dangerous,” Senator David Balmer said.
Republican Balmer and Democrat Lucia Guzman have teamed up because their state has seen more than its share of dog shootings. They would like to see municipal police agencies and sheriff’s deputies have yearly training courses so they can better determine when a dog poses a threat to them.
But it isn’t always so simple. Police Lieutenant Vince Gavito says that dogs can be dangerous, and in a moment when an officer encounters a dog in a situation, there may be little time to assess threat levels.
“You have to evaluate each situation on a case by case bases and what were the circumstances surrounding that incident,” Gavito explained.
Try explaining that to Jeff Fisher, whose blue heeler/border collie mix, Ziggy, was gunned down by police who went to the wrong address and forced their way into Fisher’s business. Ziggy had trotted outside to investigate the exciting situation.
“That’s my son. I’ve had him for 8 years. That’s my son,” Fisher said, tearfully. “He turned to come back to me. And the police officer opened fire. He ran past the police officer at the door. He just wanted to see who it was. And the police officer shot him 3 times.”
“And I’m yelling ‘You shot my dog. You shot my dog,’” Fisher continued. “And the police officer says, ‘You need to calm down. You can get a new dog.’”
Attorney Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center represents Fisher, who has filed a complaint and is planning a lawsuit. Edwards also represents the owner of Chloe, a dog shot five times while she was already restrained. She calls the killing of a family pet a “fourth amendment violation.”
“What is going on? This is becoming an epidemic in Colorado,” Edwards said. “There is something very wrong in these departments and something has got to be done about it. They’re taking our family members.”
Though Gavito is a dog-lover and can appreciate the concern that many owners have, he does not think the proposed bill is the solution.
“I don’t believe passing legislation is going to do anything to teach common sense that’s just something you have or you don’t,” Gavito said.