Police officer-dog encounters sometimes go awry, especially when officers have too little training on ways to handle situations that keep both officers and pets safe.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, after two controversial dog shootings in 2014, the Round Rock police department began to offer a new program called BARK (Be Aware of Residential K9s) to improve officers’ interactions with dogs when responding to calls.
Through the BARK program, pet owners get stickers to put on their windows letting police know there’s a pet on the premises, and police officers get training on ways to recognize and appropriately deal with dogs that might be frightened or defensive when approached by officers.
Since the implementation of the BARK program, Round Rock officers have received more than 700 hours of training to recognize and manage dog aggression. By using treats and other methods to interact with dogs, as well as humane restraints like catchpoles, officers are better able to respond to situations without putting themselves or pets in harm’s way.
The Round Rock program has been very successful. Since the program started there have been no officer involved dog shootings, and more than 1000 Round Rock pet owners have joined BARK.
In 2015, THLN worked to pass Texas’ Canine Encounter law, which requires a one-time training course for law enforcement. Texas is the third state to require this kind of training – but the only state to require it in a classroom setting (other trainings are done online).