Protesters demand more animal behavior training for police


by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

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Posted on August 16, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 16 at 3:12 PM

AUSTIN -- A small protest is unfolding outside the Austin Police Department headquarters.

The group is demanding more training for officers, saying they are too quick to pull out a gun when they encounter an animal. The protesters want to see a state law passed that would require all officers to undergo eight hours of animal behavior training.

It's not just the Austin Police Department they're worried about, but departments across Central Texas.

Chris Simmons nearly lost his dog Vinny. He says Leander officers shot Vinny when they came to his home to serve a warrant. Officers later told him they were at the wrong address.

Vinny survived, but Chris says it's a rare success story.

“It was devastating you know. It went from a normal day to tragic, tragedy. I almost lost him you know. It was real close,” said Simmons.

The Austin Police Department says its officers go through specialized training when it comes to animal encounters. It's part of the police academy as well as ongoing training.

Senior Officer Craig Smith says twice in 2012 year and once so far this year officers took mandatory online courses focused on animal encounters, including distinguishing signs such as aggression.

Smith says when an officer encounters an aggressive animal, it is up to that officer’s discretion in what type of force to take to protect themselves and others.

Simmons and other protesters want to see the department adopt a program similar to one in place at the Fort Worth Police Department. It’s dubbed Lily’s Law and requires all officers to undergo eight hours of animal behavior training.

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