Doggie treats instead of guns, Utah cops to get training on non-lethal ways to deal with animals

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SANDY -- The agency that trains and certifies all police officers in the state of Utah has unanimously approved new curriculum on non-lethal ways to handle dogs.

In a unanimous vote on Monday, the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council approved training for officers on encountering dogs on the street. The training is based on guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"This will allow them to come up with some humane ways to deal with the citizen dogs, not just go straight to deadly force and shoot them," said Lt. Wade Breur.

In an interview with FOX 13, Breur said the two hour training for cadets will include identifying dog behavior, checking to see if a home has a dog and techniques to avoid shooting, like using something to redirect a dog.

"Another good one brought up in training is carrying treats around with you and distract the dog with a treat," he said. "A lot of times, officers don't think about that stuff."

The POST Council's vote comes after some high-profile shootings of dogs. Last year, a Salt Lake City police officer shot and killed Geist, a Weimaraner, after walking into a backyard to look for a missing child. The shooting triggered protests.

Source: Justice for Geist Facebook page

Source: Justice for Geist Facebook page

Last month, a Tooele police officer shot a dog after he was bit while running into a yard to respond to a domestic disturbance where a woman was heard screaming. The officer's body camera captured the encounter with the dog.

POST acknowledged an officer may still have to use deadly force, but hoped the new training would give officers statewide some less-than-lethal options.

"This is good training to be able to give to the cadets right up front," Breur said.

The Humane Society of Utah called the training "good for officers and the animals." Humane Society spokeswoman Deann Shepherd said they want to ensure the safety of officers and people's pets.

"People are considering their animals as family members, so if there can be a non-lethal way to handle the situation, we definitely want to encourage that," she said.

The Humane Society has documented 15 dog shootings by police officers over the past five years. Shepherd said they also encourage pet owners to help officers out and keep their animals out of danger -- by leashing them or keeping them indoors when officers are working in the area.

The new training takes effect July 1. It will be offered as part of regular police academy training for all cadets. Police officers already certified will be offered the training as part of ongoing refresher courses they must take.