April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, the annual awareness campaign run by the 147-year-old ASPCA. While awareness campaigns can share really important information, the campaigns are only meaningful when people act on that new-found awareness.
And that’s just what’s happening in Colorado, where Chloe, a three-year-old mixed breed was senselessly gunned down by a police officer last November. The incident was caught on a cell phone camera and has inspired state legislation that promises to educate police on how to handle dogs in hostile situations.
The Dog Protection Act, which passed in the Colorado Senate unanimously, requires officers to have three hours of online training on dog behavior and allows only nonlethal force to get control of an animal.
“This will give them the training to see whether it’s actually an aggressive dog or not,” said Gary Branson, Chloe’s bereaved pet parent.
Branson said he was out of town while his cousin was left to watch the home and Chloe. When Chloe managed to get out of the garage, police responded temporarily, restraining the dog with a catch pole. At one point Chloe gets away, and while moving away from the officer, she is shot five times.
According to research by Colorado lawmakers, police officers in the state have shot 37 dogs in the last five years. Other high profile Colorado dog shootings include a German shepard in Boulder and a border collie mix in Adams after responding police went to the wrong address.
Police officers face unpredictable and dangerous situations every day. When a few bad apples either use bad judgement or maliciously abuse their power, it makes emotions run high on both sides of a debate, often spurring irrational outbursts.
In this case, however, there seems to be a solid consensus:
- The Dog Protection Act was introduced in a bipartisan effort between David Balmer (R-Centennial) and Lucia Guzman (D-Denver).
- The legislation passed unanimously through the Senate (it still has to pass the House).
- The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has charged officer Robert Price with felony aggravated cruelty to animals.
- The legislation was put together with input from law enforcement, including Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
“We think the more officers become comfortable with dogs, the more that they will know how to handle dogs in a nonviolent way,” said Senator Balmer. “And the ultimate goal is to reduce dog shootings.”