We request that you implement a citywide training program for all officers regarding canine encounters on the street. We further request you adopt a clear policy regarding police procedure during and after canine encounters.
Update: We would like to clarify that our goal is not to criticize the officers of the NYPD, but to encourage NYPD officials to implement a standard policy and educational training program concerning dogs that officers may encounter in the field.
The recent shooting of Star the pit bull by NYPD officers in the East Village brought much attention to the issue of dogs who suffer lethal outcomes after police encounters. According to news articles as well as video footage from the scene (warning: graphic), Star was shot by officers after acting protective of her owner who was suffering a seizure.
Unfortunately, lethal conflicts between police officers and companion animals are all too common. Even a quick web search on the topic brings a discouraging number of recent reports, including the shooting a family dog in Henrico County, Virginia, by officers informing a family of their son’s murder, or the shooting of a dog within a fenced backyard by officers creating a neighborhood perimeter in Riverside County, California.
The frequency of these reports points to the need to address this issue. In Texas, the Austin Police Department recently did just that by implementing changes in police policy and providing training sessions on how to deal with dogs they may encounter in the field.
With an estimate of 600,000 dog owners in New York City, encounters between police and dogs are certain and frequent. Officers need training on how to accurately assess the threat potential of dogs they encounter. When dealing with truly dangerous dogs, officers need to know what non-lethal methods can be employed to handle them, such as yelling, using a taser, or using pepper spray. However, officials need to enact policy guidelines that:
1. Detail these non-lethal methods.
2. Clarify under what criteria a dog is a threat.
3. Require a review within the chain of command whenever lethal force against an animal is used.
We ask you to please consider these measures and take action on them immediately.