spcaLA and National Police Foundation Unveil Report on Reducing Dog Shootings in Police Encounters

Los Angeles, CA (08/05/19) – National awareness and concern over shootings of dogs by law enforcement officers is growing. To shed light on this critical issue, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) and the National Police Foundation have released a report entitled “An Evidence-Based Approach to Reducing Dog Shootings in Routine Police Encounters: Regulations, Policies, Practices, and Training Implications.” The project was supported by a grant from the National Canine Research Council to the National Police Foundation.

“We have long suspected that officers in the field that have not received science-based training on dog behavior, may be relying on misinformation, stereotypes and misinterpreted theory when it comes to dog encounters in the field,” said Captain Cesar Perea, Director of Animal Cruelty Investigations for spcaLA. “As the evidence continues to mount in a number of areas, we can focus on debunking inaccurate information, derived from media attention, TV programs and internet sites, that is not supported by empirical research.”

The report includes the following four crucial points that all law enforcement officers should know to handle dog encounters safely.

    Circumstances vary widely and misconceptions can lead to shootings that might otherwise be avoided. Conditions leading up to shootings of dogs by police vary considerably.
    Commonly held beliefs about dog behavior are often inaccurate and based on stereotypes. Commonly held knowledge about dog behavior and breed-specific information are too frequently based on inaccurate stereotypes, derived from media attention, TV programs, and internet sites that are not evidence-based.
    The differences between K-9 dogs (specially trained to assist law enforcement) and pets need to be better understood. Knowledge and practices about dogs in law enforcement is limited, and this may lead agencies to rely on K-9 officers to inform other officers about dog behavior despite the fact that the training of K-9s is quite distinct and may actually be inappropriate or improperly applied to interactions with pet dogs.
    All training is not equal and better standards and policies are needed. Currently, there are no standardized, nationwide requirements for training police regarding encounters with dogs.

In 2015, spcaLA developed the course, “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” in response to the death of a family dog as the result of an officer involved shooting. The course is reinforced with the most current and credible information available from an array of recognized, respected leaders in animal science fields, and teaches the officers to assess a credible threat, and to use the equipment they have available.

Captain Perea has trained officers and personnel from a number of local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles and San Francisco Police Departments, representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, and investigators from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, among others. Additionally personnel from the National Canine Research Council, Long Beach Animal Care Services, and Safe Humane Chicago, have benefited from the training.

Currently, Captain Perea is preparing to train members of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation. Any law enforcement agency interested in this training course should contact Captain Perea at 323-334-4473.