New training for Leander PD after officer shoots dog


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

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Posted on August 21, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 22 at 8:56 AM

LEANDER, Texas -- The Leander Police Department has hired a canine aggression expert for an eight-hour training course after an officer shot a dog during a warrant mix-up.

However the dog's owners are upset that the City has denied their claim for vet bill reimbursement.

Aggressive, protective or friendly? That's a split-second call thousands of officers make on the job when they encounter animals and their decision isn't always the right one.

That's where canine and law enforcement expert Jim Osorio and his german shepherd Coral come in.

“There is no training out there for police officers for any type of dog encounter or any animal encounter in the academies,” said Osorio.

“I teach them dog behavior, types of dog aggression, how to approach dogs, and what types of tools are out there other than a firearm."

In June a Leander police officer shot Renata and James Simmons’ dog Vinny while trying to serve a warrant in Liberty Hill.

The officer was at the wrong house.

“This dog wasn't after him. This dog was just running up going 'Hey what are you doing?'” said Simmons.

Vinny’s bullet hole has healed but he walks with a noticeable limp and the Simmons say the vet bills to treat the wound are piling up.

The City has denied their claim for reimbursement and legal representatives through the Texas Municipal League, saying “the officer had a legal right to be on the property since he was trying to serve a warrant, even if it was the wrong address."

The Simmons have hired a lawyer and plan to fight the City's decision.

Leander Police Chief Greg Minton says they're trying to do everything they can to prevent this from happening again by hiring Osorio for the eight-hour training course.

“Training like this gives that officer an opportunity to, when he does respond and there is an animal present, to have a different tool to think of how to handle that situation,” said Chief Minton.

Austin police officers each get four hours of animal training.

Last legislative session, Senator Wendy Davis filed a bill that would have required eight hours of training for all Texas police departments.

That bill failed but supporters say they'll push for it again in 2015.