Dog Training for Fort Worth Officers After Tragic Shooting

Fort Worth police mandating all officer receive dog training

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    NEWSLETTERS

    After a tragic shooting of a non-aggressive dog in May, Fort Worth's police chief is requiring all officers to receive special dog training. (Published Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012)

    After a Fort Worth officer shot and killed a family dog, the police department is taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

    An eight-hour training course on dealing with aggressive dogs started for senior officers on Tuesday this week and will continue for the next few days.

    The group doing the training, the National Humane Law Enforcement Academy, says that officers come across an animal in one out of every three calls they respond to.

    Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead decided to implement the training in response to the May shooting death of a dog in the Meadowbrook neighborhood of east Fort Worth.

    The dog was not attacking the officer.

    Halstead said the training will benefit the public, the officers and the city.

    As the chief made it clear, he doesn't want what happened to Cindy and Mark Boling to happen to anyone else.

    "Our Lily was shot to death by a Fort Worth police officer in front of us on our porch, and she bled to death in our arms," Cindy Boling said Wednesday.

    Five months after the shooting, in which the officer arrived at the wrong house and shot at a collie that was not being aggressive to him, the Bolings are finding relief in the effort they've pushed since Lily's death.

    "We knew something had to happen, and something is happening," Boling said.

    They said they don't want any other pet owner to go through what they did and found an ally in Halstead.

    Instead of filing a lawsuit or demanding the officer's job, although they didn't contemplate that, the Bolings simply don't want any other pet owner to go through what they did. And they found an ally in Chief Halstead.

    "It bothered me professionally and personally, because I have a dog and I would not want this to happen to my pet," Halstead said. "It was just the right thing to do -- not just for the Bolings, but for our city."

    Halstead is now requiring all officers to go through an eight-hour training course on how to deal with aggressive dogs. Senior officers will be trained first to help spread the knowledge, but eventually all Fort Worth officers will go through the course.

    "Across the country, police departments don't have this type of training," said Jim Osorio, senior law enforcement specialist for the National Humane Law Enforcement Academy.

    Osorio is teaching the officers to not fear the animals, to recognize the signs of aggression and how to protect themselves without firing their weapons.

    He said his goal for this and all training is simple.

    "Cut down the number of (animal) shootings in the United States," he said. "The only reason why there are a lot of shootings is that they (police officers) don't have the training."

    From September 2009 to September 2012, Fort Worth police Maj. Paul Henderson told Wednesday's class that the department had responded to 1,825 animal-related calls.

    During that time, 849 civilians were bitten, including 86 children. One child died.

    Osorio said that an officer will come into contact with an animal once in every three call outs. Fort Worth Police says in that three year time span, 49 officers filed for workers' compensation for dog bites and 109 critical police incidents occurred where an officer discharged a firearm on an animal took place.

    "My position was, let's get this training as soon as possible," Halstead said. "Let's not have another incident where someone looses their Lily, because we don't want to go through that again."

    Halstead and the Bolings said they believe the new training will work.

    "We are seeing change," Cindy Boling said. "We must see it a state level, so that every law enforcement agency in this state will mandate this training."

    Boling would also like to see this type of dog training become the national standard. She's started a Facebook page in honor of Lily and to promote her cause.

    Halstead said it could take up to two years for all officers to receive the eight-hour course.