Group protests dog shootings at APD headquarters



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Posted on August 16, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 16 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Some animal advocates gathered Friday outside Austin police headquarters to call for more training so officers can better handle dogs they believe are aggressive.

The protest stems, in part, from a recent shooting of a dog name Cisco.

About two-dozen dog owners from across the state were at APD headquarters for Friday's rally. They want police to realize that dogs they may see as threats are often instead just family pets.

They came from throughout Texas. Dog owners, dog lovers, and the dogs themselves. One dog at APD, a German Shepard named Vinny, took a bullet from a Leander police officer a couple of months ago.

Leander police say Vinny ran up to an officer as he tried to serve a warrant. Feeling threatened the officer opened fire. And the anger is still raw for Vinny's owner.

"It was devastating. It went from a normal day to tragedy. I almost lost him," his owner Chris Simmons said.

That shooting is the latest among several high-profile dog shootings in Central Texas within the past year.

it was after an Austin police officer fatally shot Cisco, a blue heeler, on East Fifth Street, that the focus was placed on how officers use deadly force against dogs. It also led the Austin police department to change its policies.
According to the apd policy, officers may use lethal force against a dog if there is an imminent safety threat to themselves or the public. It also allows other types of force against dogs, like tasers, and it established a system for how supervisors review such shootings. But protesters argue that isn't enough.
"Anywhere where the police go in with warrants or 911 calls where they may be a family member that barks, if they aren't trained, it's going to be an issue," Julian Reyes, whose dog was fatally shot, said.

Police say they have ramped up training in recent months. Officers must undergo at least four hours of training in how to handle potentially aggressive dogs.

"One of the things we don't want to see an officer become involved in is a situation where if they had more training, or diffferent training, that they would have resolved in a different manner that would have been safer for the officer or any other party involved. Even if that other party involved is a dog," Austin police training officer Gary Carrillo said.

Friday’s protestors are pushing for a state, or even federal law, that would require all law enforcement officers to undergo an eight-hour animal training course. An effort to do that at the state level failed this year.

Austin police have shot 20 dogs, some fatally, since the new policy took effect in April.  Those shootings, they say, were within the rules.


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