Police may go to special training

Published 10:44 am Monday, April 27, 2015

TOLEDO (AP) — Police officers in Ohio may soon be required to undergo training in dealing with dogs that they encounter on the job.

The idea was tucked into the latest version of the state budget that lawmakers in the Ohio House approved this past week.

Supporters say it’s in response to officer-involved shootings of companion animals, mostly dogs.

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The move would require the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy to provide training on companion animal encounters and behavior. The state’s attorney general would adopt rules to establish the amount and specific content of the training.

House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith, R-93s, said the idea is designed to complement the work of groups already examining police training.

Colorado in 2013 became the first state to enact mandatory training, requiring sheriffs’ offices and police departments to offer three hours of online training on recognizing dog behaviors and employing nonlethal control methods.

“This was becoming more and more of an issue across the United States,” said Mary O’Connor-Shaver, a steering committee member of Ohio Voters for Companion Animals; one of the animal-advocacy groups supporting the idea.

“We wanted to take a proactive stance,” she told The Blade newspaper.

A police officer in Woodville, a village outside Toledo, shot a dog that he said was acting aggressively during a traffic stop. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing. The dog survived, but its leg was amputated in February.

In response, the village’s mayor is paying for training that will encourage nonlethal measures officers can take when they encounter dogs.

“I really felt this was needed,” said Mayor Richard Harman. “We’ve been through some tough times, and I want to make this right for our community, our officers, and our canine family.”

He lobbied for the training at the state level.

“The need is there,” he said. “There’s no question. It takes this kind of initiative.”

Lauren Bischoff, owner of the dog that was shot, agreed the training is needed.

“It’s a great step forward when it comes to police training,” she said. “They deal with animals on a daily basis, so I would think you’d want to have that training just like they do for dealing with people.”