Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed two bills at the Denver Animal Shelter which promises to protect both law enforcement officials and the unnecessary death of dogs. There have been more than 40 dog deaths during the course of officers responding to non-violent emergencies – many of the cases are currently in litigation.
The Dog Protection Act or Senate Bill 226 now allows dog owners to first secure their dogs in separate rooms or a safe area when police officers respond to non-violent calls. The bill sponsored by Senators David Balmer (R-Centennial) and Lucia Guzman (Denver) and Representatives Lois Court (Denver) and Don Coram (R-Montrose) won unanimous approval from the legislature and was highly supported by law enforcement.
The new law will require law enforcement officials to attend a three-hour training webinar by a volunteer task force on animal behavior to give officers better training as to animal psychology.
Colorado is the first state to institute this kind of program.
In May 2011, Brittany Moore called the Erie Police Department about threatening phone calls she had been receiving. When Officer James Chester responded, Moore’s German shepherd named Ava was shot and killed. The officer claimed he felt his safety had been threatened by the dog. Moore disagreed and contends Ava responded to her command to retreat and while the dog turned around, Chester shot Ava in the back.
Gary Branson’s three-year-old Labrador mix named Chloe was shot five times after an officer responded to his dog escaping from his cousin’s garage while Branson was on vacation.
And in Adams County, a sheriff’s deputy killed a man’s eight-year-old blue heeler and collie mix named Ziggy when the officer arrived at the wrong address while responding to a burglary call.
The second bill designed to encourage the adoption of stray and unwanted pets is Senate Bill 201 making shelter animals the official state pet. Sponsored by Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), the bill met with exhaustive arguments from dog clubs, pet stores, and groomers contending that these organizations were being insulted and possibly diminishing the value of purebred pets.
“The American Kennel Club reported purebred dog ownership in Colorado to be an estimated $20.5 million per year industry.”
According to the ColoradoStatesman.com, the idea for the new law began with a school project for students at the Parkview School in Walsenburg who proposed to help more dogs and cats find adoptive homes while working their way through the trials and paths of the legislative system.
Governor Hickenlooper was accompanied by his own rescue dog, Skye, an Akita, bulldog, and Chow mix. Skye frequently accompanies the governor to work.
“Let’s hope Colorado sends a message to other states so there can be some training for officers who know nothing about how dogs think. I can’t even imagine the way these pet owners must have felt and still feel for the senseless loss of their dogs,” stated Tracy Lee Jones of Miami, Fla.
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