Police shootings of family pets draw action at Capitol
DENVER — Four dog lovers in the Colorado Legislature are tired of hearing stories of police officers shooting family pets unnecessarily.
So the four of them, including Montrose Republican Rep. Don Coram, want the Legislature to enact a Dog Protection Act.
The measure, SB226, stems from some incidents mostly in Front Range communities where local police shot and killed the family dog either because of a misunderstanding or a mean-spirited intentional killing.
The lawmakers have documented 37 cases so far involving officers shooting dogs when they didn’t really need to, said Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial.
“We’ve had several cases that have arisen since we first started discussion on the bill,” Balmer said. “They’ve all been non-violent situations.”
Some of the cases the lawmakers were told of, according to the dogs’ owners, include:
■ In May 2011, an Erie police officer responded to a call but went to the wrong address. While walking to the correct address, a German shepherd and a golden retriever, one with a rawhide treat in its mouth, walked up to the officer. One of the dogs was immediately shot by the officer.
■ In February 2010, a Commerce City police officer, responding to a 911 call that was made by mistake, shot and killed a dog that was standing in its owner’s driveway.
■ In September 2008, a Chihuahua-poodle mix dog was running away from a Denver police officer but was shot from behind.
The most egregious case was in January of this year, Balmer said.
There, an Archuleta County sheriff’s deputy, while assisting emergency medical personnel, shot a highly trained service dog belonging to the women the EMT responders were checking on.
Balmer said that in each of the incidents, none of the dogs were acting in a threatening manner.
The bill requires all local police officers and sheriff’s deputies to undergo one-time special training on identifying when dogs are dangerous and when they’re not.
The measure still gives them wide discretion in determining when they are in danger.
“Unfortunately, the law enforcement have been doing too many shootings,” Balmer said. “But we’re going to maintain a very large exception for law enforcement in situations where they feel they need to protect themselves.”