Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In The Line of Duty, What Dogs Try To Tell Cops

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An incident in Cookeville, Tennessee in which a police officer fatally shot a family’s pet dog during a stop created a public outcry.  Although it was a felony stop, critics allege the officer was too quick to put down the dog.  It was all captured on video.  The dog appeared friendly rather than aggressive.  Complicating the issue is the fact that the owners of the dog had done nothing wrong and that the felony stop was based on erroneous information.  The result was inevitable litigation even though the shooting was ruled justified.  There have been numerous incidents in which officers have shot and killed dogs.  There is no argument that killing attacking, or even threatening, animals is justified.  This video is designed to help officers evaluate situations involving animals more intelligently and to take alternative action when appropriate. 

The Approach:
    • Anticipate the presence of a dog on any property.  One out of three (now four) Americans own a dog.
    • Look for signs that a dog is present.
    • Contact owner to confine dog.  (Some officers carry doggie treats with them to mollify dogs)
    • Assume a dog is on the premises.  Let it know you are approaching.
    • Look at a dog’s body language.
    • Don’t approach dogs that seem afraid.
    • Do not back ANY dog into corner.
    • Never exit car when unfriendly dog or dogs are present.
    • Barking does NOT always mean a dog is aggressive.
    • Dogs are highly territorial and inherently protective.  They react to movement.
    • Touching the owner, even the gesture of handing him something, can provoke hostility from the animal.
    • Use lethal force when nothing else works.

The Do’s and Don’ts When A Dog Is Provoked:
       Keep movement to a minimum
       Show profile
       Don’t extend hand
       Don’t stare
       Don’t smile or show teeth
       Back away slowly

If a dog greets you with hostility, don’t be afraid to retreat and consider your next course of action.

If there is no time to retreat, use your baton as a “bite” stick, or “feed” it something like your jacket. Striking the dog will make it more aggressive.

There are a number of tools officers usually have at their disposal that can be used to fend off an attack by a dog.
       Pepper Spray (Note: Pepper spray does not work on pit bulls.)
       Night Stick
       Fire Extinguishers
       Lethal force should be the final option in the force continuum.

Force Continuum
       Calming behavior
       Chemical, electronic, sonic physical repellents

Pit Bulls and Larger Dogs:
Pit Bulls are the most notorious of all dogs.  They have often been associated with attacks. They are often used as guard dogs by drug dealers and many have been trained to fight.

By nature, they are people-friendly and will not challenge, unless not socialized properly.  Their best qualities are those that make them so suitable for protection. They are fiercely loyal, tenacious, intelligent, but if they growl, watch out. Pit bulls often wag their tails before just before and after an attack. When the tail is held high and wagging in short movements, it may be a sign of dominance rather than friendliness.

Rottweilers are not very sociable and do not like to take orders from strangers or even from their owners. Take it seriously when they growl.

Dobermans often do not bark or show aggression before they attack.

These larger breeds can be docile or dangerous.  They have a fierce protective streak which can be exploited by those who train them to attack.

How to Protect Yourself:
The follow maneuvers can be employed during an attack.
Turn to the side: That gives an animal a less threatening profile and makes you a smaller target.
Protect face and throat: Dogs will usually attack the face and throat because that is where the sound comes from. An attacking dog wants to silence its prey. So:
Do not yell or scream.
Brace yourself: You want to avoid being knocked down were the animal has easier access to your throat.
Fetal position:  It you are knocked down, assume the fetal position to lessen the exposure of as much body surface as possible.
Protect throat and ears:  Use your hands.
Do not expose fingers:  It is best to ball your hands so the animal cannot bite at your fingers

Read the dog’s body language: Their intentions are usually clearly signaled.
Avoid Eye Contact: Staring at a dog is interpreted as a threat.
Stand Still: Dogs are more likely to attack a moving target.
Use Verbal Commands:  Dogs that have been trained will often respond to commands such as “sit!” or “stay!”
Allow Dog to Retreat: Never corner a dog. Allow it to pull back. They are very territorial and frequently will pull back when they feel their territory is not threatened.
Be Prepared: When entering a situation in which a confrontation with a dog(s) is likely, have such equipment as nooses available to restrain the animals.
Train: Work with K9 officers or animal welfare organizations to learn more about dog behavior.
Resist Lethal Force: Resist the temptation to use lethal force unless there is no alternative. Remember, dogs are someone’s property.  Destroy that property and you are setting up you and your department for a lawsuit.

If and when you decide on lethal force:
  • If you can’t shoot before an attack, try and make the dog bite your weak side arm.
  • Do all that you can to stay on your feet.
  • Shoot the dog in chest or shoulder until it releases you.

Questions for Discussion
    1.   What are your feelings about the Tennessee dog shooting? Do you feel the officer was justified in killing the animal, why or why not?
    2.   Do you feel you might have reacted in the same way?
    3.   Is it time for you to personally reevaluate your approach to confrontations with animals?  Discuss it.
    4.   Have you been trained to deal with aggressive dogs? If not, do you feel training in this area would worthwhile?
    5.   Have you ever been attacked by a dog?
    6.   How do you deal with aggressive dogs?
    7.   How well do you think you can read dogs?
    8.   Would you call an animal control officer if you were called to a scene where there were barking dogs?
    9.   Do you worry more about confrontations with some breeds more than others, if so, why?
    10. Do you fear dogs? If so, would that affect your approach to dealing with an aggressive animal?

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