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Preventive care

March 27, 2015

You might think, with that title, that I’m going to talk about canine health care, but I’m not…not in the expected sense. The care I’m going to promote at this writing is the prevention of canine shooting deaths at the hands of armed law enforcement officers. This is a really uncomfortable subject for me to address, but I know that most dog owners are not aware of the need for proactive prevention. First let me say this: I know that many dogs owe their lives to compassionate law enforcement officers who have carried out sometimes difficult and even dangerous rescues. However, every day innocent dogs are also losing their lives because many law enforcement officers, likely through no fault of their own, know little or nothing about dogs, and some react in fear at the presence of any dog. These usually fatal occurrences are so tragic because they can usually be prevented. Specific training courses in dog behavior and interpreting the expressions and actions of dogs for all law enforcement officer candidates will go a long way toward lessening the number of unwarranted canine fatalities at the hands of law enforcement. The need for this education is slowly being recognized. But it will take time for community after community or even state after state to decide to provide such education, and meanwhile there are shootings somewhere on a daily basis.

Here’s the immediate preventive care:  diligently keep dogs from ever encountering law enforcement officers. If you are pulled over by a highway patrolman, and your dog or dogs are with you, do not allow the dogs to leave the car for any reason, even if you are with them. At home, if an officer of the law comes to your door, secure your dog(s) in another room before answering the door. In some neighborhoods you may be wise not to even leave your dog unsupervised within the safety of your fenced yard. While some dog owners keep locks on their yard gates to prevent accidental openings which could allow a family dog to escape, locked gates can serve the additional purpose of preventing the yard from being entered without warning by a law enforcement officer canvassing the neighborhood. It’s up to you to assess your neighborhood for the likelihood of such visits, but err on the side of overkill.

Sadly, because of misunderstanding, among other things, dogs…beloved, innocent family pets… are being shot and killed daily by law enforcement officers acting in their  “line of duty.” Devastated families get no redress. One police department in Georgia states, “Shootings which involve dogs do not require disciplinary action.” And of course nothing can restore the dog.

Aside from the dire consequences of a shooting, dogs also deserve to be protected from unnecessary fear-producing circumstances. I haven’t pinpointed the reason, but my experience with a multitude of dogs throughout the years is that many dogs distrust someone in a uniform, be it mail delivery, UPS, or law enforcement. Maybe the uniform has nothing to do with it, and they are sensing something coming from the person. Regardless of reason, the distrust is there.  Knowing this, out of respect and consideration,  dogs should not have to be in the presence of someone in a uniform unless it is someone they know well.

I do not like writing about gloomy topics. But I feel obligated to alert dog owners to safety precautions they may not have thought about. Let’s do all we can to be proactive in protecting our dogs from fearful encounters and even the possibility of a shooting death at the hands of law enforcement. The time is long since past to see this tragedy cease.sad-dog[1]

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