Tragedy for local family prompts new Texas law requiring police training for canine encounters

- Our report of the family dog shot and killed by a Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Deputy last week is getting attention from animal advocates across the country.

It's also helping residents find out that there's a new law in Texas about training law enforcement officers for canine encounters. (See the course content here: http://www.tcole.texas.gov/content/canine-encounters )

Unfortunately the mandate came too late to save 9 year old Sadie, a family's pet in far West Harris County.

"Maybe they could have approached the situation differently," said Sadie's grieving owner, Hanne Barbarawi. "That way people don't get hurt, and animals don't get hurt and killed, for no reason."

Barbarawi's dog was shot and killed by a Precinct 5 constable's deputy Thursday at about 6 pm, when the officer was checking on a reported burglary that turned out to be a false alarm.

Sadie was charging at the officer, growling and baring it's teeth as it came, according to the statement written by Pct 5 to Fox 26. But perhaps the new canine encounter training would have made the officer realize, Sadie didn't really look like a killer.

"The training we're talking about is smart, and it's the right information," said Michael Baugh, a dog trainer and behavioral specialist.

Baugh says he likes that the new Texas course, which is available on the web site of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, teaches how to read dogs body language, and how officers can deescalate dog confrontations.

"Just because they are carrying a weapon doesn't mean they can discharge it and kill our dogs," Baugh says. "That's the aim of this training, so they have other tools and other resources to prevent that from happening."

According to an excerpt from the course, officers are told deadly force can be used if there is an ongoing and continuous bite, if there's a direct charge by the dog with no hesitation, or if they're confronted with an aggressive pack of dogs.

But Baugh says officers can't reasonably use the argument, time and again, that they were in fear for their life.

"The truth of the matter is that most real life dog bites barely rise to the level of a kitchen accident. These are not severely injurious incidents."

New peace officers are required to take the canine encounter training, so are officers upgrading their certification. Some agencies are scheduling the training for officers, just because it's a good idea.
But Precinct 5 told Fox 26 they don't have many deputies who fall under the new state law, so their office has no plans to schedule canine encounter training at this time.

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