Police train to deal with aggressive dogs - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Police train to deal with aggressive dogs

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A new initiative in Richmond could help officers if they face frightening incidents where they'd have to shoot animals at a heated scene. In an effort to avoid those tragedies, the SPCA is partnering with Richmond Police to train officers to deal with aggressive animals.

When a dog appears to be barking uncontrollably, it leads to many questions: Is the dog scared? Is it aggressive? And most importantly, how does one deal with it?

That last question has been on Capt. Harvey Powers' mind since he was a new officer on the streets of Richmond.

"I walk into the home in a domestic argument between a man and a woman, very volatile, very emotional and as I walked in I was bitten from the back of my leg," he recalled Thursday.

The situation could have been worse for both Powers and the dog.

"If I'd have known what to look for, maybe I would have avoided the bite altogether," he wondered.

That's what he's hoping the recruits he's in charge of at the police academy will take from this new hands-on training.

In the past five years, Powers explains, RPD has seen a number of incidents where officers have had to fire at dogs. Some of those animals have died. While the "use of force" has been ruled appropriate each time, the department thinks this training might help them avoid the issue altogether.

Recruit Chelsea Mitchell believes the classes will prove useful. It is estimated there is one dog for every four people in the city. That comes to about 50,000 four-legged possibly-not-so-friendly friends.

"I learned different ways to distract the animal, to keep them that way," Mitchell explained. "That way if they're approaching you, to get the attention off of you onto other things that might distract them and keep them from harming you."

At the end of this class, RPD will have fifty officers with this specialized training. The goal is to expand the program to include to all officers.

"With more education we can do everything better," SPCA Chief Executive Officer Robin Starr said.

There is another class planned for July. The SPCA is conducting the training for free. 

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