Nevada Lawmaker to Police: Please Stop Killing Our Dogs

A state senator is pushing for a law to curb dog deaths at the hands of state police.

A K-9 keeps an eye on his City of Miami police department partner during the graduation ceremony of the Canine Academy October 17, 2007 in Miami, Florida. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Nov. 25, 2013, 6:35 a.m.

Nevada State Sen. Dav­id Parks wants justice for Freckles.

Freckles, an Aus­trali­an shep­herd, was killed after be­ing hit by a Las Ve­gas po­lice cruis­er in May when an of­ficer thought the dog was an im­pend­ing threat to a group of chil­dren. Freckles isn’t alone: State an­im­al act­iv­ists be­lieve that 30 dogs have been need­lessly killed by po­lice in the past five years, al­though the Las Ve­gas Met­ro­pol­it­an Po­lice De­part­ment dis­putes that num­ber.

So now, Parks, armed with act­iv­ist sup­port, is look­ing to in­tro­duce le­gis­la­tion dur­ing the next le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion to help solve the prob­lem. While the bill is still in its in­fancy, the idea is to help train po­lice of­ficers to handle dogs without re­sort­ing to vi­ol­ence. “In many in­stances, a dog is be­ing ter­rit­ori­al, not vi­cious,” Parks told the Las Ve­gas Re­view-Journ­al. “It would help if po­lice knew what cat­egory of dog they were deal­ing with.”

Po­lice vi­ol­ence against dogs isn’t just pe­cu­li­ar to Nevada. On Sunday, dog own­ers in Com­merce City, Colo., marked the an­niversary of the shoot­ing death of a dog named Chloe by po­lice. Parks is look­ing at the fal­lout from that shoot­ing as a guide for his state. After that death, Col­or­ado passed the Dog Pro­tec­tion Act, which was signed in­to law this May.

The act, which was the first le­gis­la­tion na­tion­wide to ad­dress po­lice vi­ol­ence against dogs, re­quires sher­iff’s of­fices and po­lice de­part­ments to give three hours of on­line train­ing on dog be­ha­vi­or, and to in­struct of­ficers on non­vi­ol­ent ways to deal with the an­im­als. The bill passed the Col­or­ado Le­gis­lature with no op­pos­i­tion. “This is a bi­par­tis­an day for dogs,” a Re­pub­lic­an spon­sor of the bill said upon its sign­ing in­to law.

As strange as it may sound, this kind of le­gis­la­tion, while cur­rently rare, could be on its way to na­tion­al ac­cept­ance. Patrick Reas­onover, an act­iv­ist film­maker, con­tends that a pet dog is killed by po­lice every 98 minutes — very little pub­lic data on na­tion­wide deaths is cur­rently avail­able to back that num­ber up or knock it down. It may be dif­fi­cult to get le­gis­la­tion passed any­where in Amer­ica right now. But if there’s one is­sue that can unite politi­cians of all stripes, it may be that every­one is against dead dogs.

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