(WSVN) - A South Florida police officer recently shot and killed a dog. Other dogs have also come under fire. 7Investigates has learned of a glaring gap when it comes to training officers. A warning: Some may find parts of this report disturbing. Here’s the Nightteam’s Karen Hensel.
Their names, Niles, Sweetie, Luna, Diesel and Moo-Moo. Five family pets with one thing in common: they were all shot by Miami-Dade Police officers since 2018.
Sweetie’s owner, 2020: “She was just a good dog.”
Only two of them survived. Luna was shot in the leg after an officers responded to a noise complaint.
Luna’s owner, 2020: “You shot my dog for no reason.”
Moo-Moo’s family said her jaw was broken after officers came to their home.
John Thompson, Former Deputy Executive Director, National Sheriffs’ Association: “Societies change. Peoples’ dogs are like their family, and you shoot a dog like that, it’s just like shooting a 6-year-old child.”
John Thompson is a former police chief and assistant sheriff. He says too many officers nationwide are still getting no training in how to safely handle interactions with dogs, and the results have been deadly.
John Thompson: “I can tell you, without a doubt, that it’s a problem for law enforcement right now.”
Karen Hensel: “You might think Miami-Dade Police, one of the largest departments in the country, would have a standard dog training program for its more than 3,000 officers. You would be wrong, but the agency is far from alone.”
John Thompson: “It’s a no brainer. It’s just, they’re not doing it.”
Only six states require law enforcement officers be trained in dog encounters. Florida is not one of them.
Police body camera video, October 2020: “Show me your hands. Show me your hands!”
Last year, 7Investigates showed body camera video of an American bulldog tased, shot and killed by Miami-Dade Police after the homeowner called 911 to report a break-in at his neighbor’s house.
Officer: “Pick up the dog!”
And just last month, another officer shot and killed a pitbull that ran out of a home.
Officer, January 2022: “Get back!”
The latest deadly shooting is now sparking change at MDPD headquarters.
Miami-Dade Police Maj. Carlos Gonzalez: “We wanted to bring in experts, so we can develop a curriculum that we can utilize on our own and put it out consistently.”
Part of the training could include a simulator like this. Putting officers in various real-world scenarios, like a backyard during a burglary call or at a park.
Simulator training: “There’s kids in the park, ma’am. I’m going to Taser your dog, ma’am. You need to control your dog.”
Jim Crosby, a canine aggression and behavior expert, literally wrote the book on how officers should handle run-ins with dogs.
Jim Crosby, Canine Aggression and Behavior Expert: “The basic thing we’re teaching is dogs have a language, and it’s easy to learn.”
Carlos Gonzalez: “So, the training is important. We need to meet the community’s expectations in regards to what they expect for a member of their family.”
Members of the family, killed by officers, and owners left questioning whether their pets really had to die.
The Florida Sheriff’s Association told 7Investigates that they do not have a specific course for dog encounters. The Broward Sheriff’s Office does not have this training either.
For more information on Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Training:
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