Police Foundation Study

The June 2013 fatal shooting of a pet dog in by a police officer in Southern California gained national attention, and underscored the need for officers in the field to have a realistic set of tools with which to better assess situations involving family pets. In direct response to the incident, spcaLA developed Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement.

First offered to law enforcement in 2015, the course allows officers to affect more positive outcomes with family dogs, using a credible, evidence-based approach. Rather than making the unrealistic promise of eliminating officer-involved shootings of dogs, the course seeks to reduce such incidents and to allow officers to recognize and articulate the detrimental behavior that put them in the need to use force.

Reinforced with the most current information available from an array of recognized, respected leaders in animal science fields, the curriculum includes teaching officers how to assess a credible threat, and respond to it using equipment they have at their disposal.

Dedicated to providing officers in the field with the most scientifically-sound, current, and adaptable resources available, spcaLA works with fellow law enforcement and NGOs routinely.

On September 21, 2016, spcaLA’s Captain Cesar Perea served as one of a small group of subject matter experts in a forum entitled “Law Enforcement and Canine Encounters,” hosted by Ronald L. Davis, Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Executive Director of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Perea and other subject matter experts discussed, among other things, best practices departments can implement to avoid negative dog encounters in the field, as well as the impact such encounters have on community trust and the principles of community policing.

In 2017, spcaLA connected with the National Canine Research Council and the National Police Foundation to further study how to reduce deadly incidents involving law enforcement and companion animals. The resulting report, titled “An Evidence-Based Approach to Reducing Dog Shootings in Routine Police Encounters: Regulations, Policies, Practices, and Training Implications” was released in July of 2019.

On May 23, 2018, spcaLA, National Canine Research Council, and MILO Range unveiled scenario-based force option simulator training to enhance safety for law enforcement, canines and the public. This first-of-its-kind approach is based on the reality that the best way to avoid discharging a firearm at a dog is to avoid the dog by taking a few easy steps. The scenarios use real-life dog behavior and vocalizations to train officers on how to avoid unsafe encounters and de-escalate whenever possible.

spcaLA’s Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement is the only California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST)-certified course that is credible and relies on an evidence-based approach concerning police and dog encounters. The course is also approved by the California Animal Welfare Association (CALAnimals).

Armed with ever-evolving information and techniques, spcaLA continues to offer the course, “Dog Behavior for Law Enforcement” in an effort to better equip law enforcement and other personnel in the field. If you are a member of law enforcement who is interested in the training course, please visit the spcaLA Continuing Education page or call 323-334-4473.