A new bill is aimed at curbing the number of dogs killed by Georgia police officers during stops and calls.
House Bill 803, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton, R – Jefferson, would require police officers to undergo training to deal with animals encountered during stops so that they use the least amount of force necessary to control the situation.
“In a residential neighborhood, when an officer pulls a firearm, it needs to be the last resort,” said Matthew Rodriquez, who said his dog, Jane, was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer last November.
The police officer claimed the dog was aggressively running at him. Rodriquez said the dog was just running over to say “hello.”
“Without hesitation, he turned around and shot her right in the head, with my wife standing right in the line of his fire,” said Rodriquez. Atlanta police said the investigation into Jane’s death is still ongoing.
Rodriquez, along with thousands of dog lovers on Facebook, is urging lawmakers to sign off on the legislation, which has been passed in a handful of other states.
According to a Channel 2 Action News investigation, nearly 100 dogs were killed by police officers in the metro Atlanta area, between 2010 and 2012.
“So, we can stop it from every happening again in Georgia,” said Rodriquez.
Benton said the bill is not meant to prohibit law enforcement from using deadly force against animals.
“I am not saying they cannot use deadly force. We are not saying that, in the bill, we are just asking that not be the first choice,” said Benton. “Maybe just an hour (of training) to get it in their mind to think about using something else besides the gun to stop an animal.”
Benton said no one came out against the bill during a hearing last week. Although, one law enforcement official did propose that local law enforcement agencies set the guidelines on a department by department basis.