Following High-Profile Shootings, CA Police to Take Course On Dogs, Wildlife
San Francisco Chronicle via YellowBrix
October 13, 2010
OAKLAND – Oakland police will undergo mandatory training in handling dogs and wildlife beginning next month, officials announced after two high-profile cases in which officers shot a confused fawn and a barking yellow Labrador.
The training, provided free by the East Bay SPCA, will include several hours of instruction on dog behavior, local wildlife habits and alternatives to shooting animals. The department’s entire staff of 679 officers will be required to undergo the training once a year.
“The goal is to give officers new skills and show them what a crucial role animals play in this community,” said Oakland’s animal control director, Megan Webb. “We need to make sure animals are treated humanely, and show that animals are important to the Oakland Police Department.”
The training comes two weeks after officers shot Gloria, an 11-year-old arthritic yellow Lab that barked at police when they entered a family’s backyard in the Oakland hills. Police said Gloria growled and charged them as they attempted to investigate a possible burglary at the home.
In May, officers shot a young deer several times in a backyard on 90th Avenue in East Oakland, causing an uproar from residents.
In 2009, Oakland police shot eight dogs, according to police spokeswoman Holly Joshi. By comparison, Contra Costa County animal control officers shot one dog in seven years, East Bay SPCA director Allison Lindquist said. Even the three pit bulls that mauled to death a 2-year-old boy in Concord in July were not shot, she said. Those dogs were euthanized at the animal shelter.
“This is fantastic for the Oakland Police Department,” said Lindquist, who is creating the curriculum for the police. “Any dog is going to bark if you enter its territory. We just want to make sure officers are armed with enough information so they can do their job safely and animals don’t get hurt unnecessarily.”
The training will also cover signs of animal abuse and neglect, in hopes of increasing the number of those prosecuted for mistreating animals, Webb said. The department’s canine officers will also help in the training.
Wildlife education will be part of the course. Officers will learn what to expect from deer, raccoons, possums and other animals at different times of the year, and how to determine if an animal is a safety threat. The ill-fated deer on 90th Avenue should have been left alone to find its way back to the hills, Lindquist said.
Gloria’s case remains under investigation, but in general officers can use pepper spray, batons or “catch poles” – 5-foot metal poles affixed with looped collars – to restrain an aggressive dog, Lindquist said.
The training will cost $40,000 to $50,000 annually, to be covered by the nonprofit SPCA. The course will be part of the mandatory advanced officer training, which police undergo annually.
In addition to the 679 officers, Oakland has one part-time and nine full-time animal control officers who handle abuse, neglect and other animal problems.
“That’s just not enough for a city this size,” Webb said. “That’s why we have to train the rest of the staff in how to handle animals, which are obviously such an important part of this community.”