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Officers trained to limit lethal force against dogs

Dayton police are taking steps to limit the number of times officers use lethal force against dogs by teaching them with new skills to de-escalate situations.

Since 2011, 49 dogs have been shot by Dayton police. Nine of those were last year.

The shootings occur during a variety of calls, from domestic violence and drug raids to reports of an aggressive animal or dog running loose, according to police records.

Calls regarding loose or aggressive dogs increase as the temperature rises, which is why the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center is offering training now on how to handle aggressive dogs, said Robert Sexton, an animal control supervisor.

“We’re basically (giving them) the tools that they can use to deflect some situations so maybe lethal force would not have to be used,” Sexton said.

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The training was mandatory for Dayton police’s more than 300 officers. The three-hour course includes instructional videos showing officers how to approach dogs. Officers are trained to approach human suspects straight-on, taking an aggressive stance and maintaining eye contact. But that’s the exact opposite of how they should approach a dog, Sexton said.

Instead, officers are instructed to “blade,” or approach the dog in a sideways arc, looking around the dog but not directly in its eyes. It’s also suggested they approach the animal using calming tones.

Using barriers, such as doors or a fence, to keep between the officer and the dog can limit the likelihood of an attack. Throwing treats or finding a distraction can also be useful. Watching for temperament cues, such as if the dog has its ears back and a closed mouth, can signal whether the dog may attack, Sexton said.

An attacking dog can cause serious injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 4.5 million people were reportedly bitten by a dog nationwide last year. There were 32 people killed by a dog in 2014 — the majority of those victims were children. However, there’s never been a documented case of an officer killed by a dog, Sexton said.

A dog can be a lethal weapon, so the animal resource center isn’t telling officer “they shouldn’t ever use lethal force, but there are some things you can do to minimize it,” Sexton said.

Owners can minimize the likelihood of their pet being injured, too, Sexton said, by warning officers they have a dog when police respond to a scene, and by confining the animal.

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