New Department of Justice Manual Keeps Law Enforcement Officers, Citizens, and Dogs Safe During National Dog Bite Prevention Week

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A new manual offers improved processes for law enforcement officers who encounter dogs in the line of duty. National Dog Bite Prevention Week is a time to highlight resources like “The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters” that teach safety by focusing on the dog’s eye-view.

Positive interactions with canines result when we see things from their point of view.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 20-26) offers an opportunity to enhance community safety and the human-canine bond, by promoting resources like the new publication from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office entitled “The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters.” Subject-matter experts at Best Friends Animal Society, Safe Humane Chicago, the University of Illinois Center for Public Safety and Justice, and the National Canine Research Council (NCRC) (http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil) co-authored the manual. It instructs law enforcement officers in how to deal safely and effectively with dogs they encounter in the line of duty.

“The National Canine Research Council is working to make communities safer for both people and dogs. Positive interactions with canines result when we see things from their point of view. We wanted to create a manual that offers the most reliable, professional guidance for law enforcement officers in their interactions with dogs,” states Donald Cleary, NCRC’s Director of Communications and Publications and a co-author of the manual.

In the United States, more than 78 million dogs live alongside 311 million humans: roughly one dog for every four people. Recent surveys indicate that 39 percent of America’s homes and apartments include at least one dog. Law enforcement officers can expect to encounter dogs routinely and in a wide array of situations, including those where the interaction with the dog is incidental.

Whether in a traffic stop, where the dog was only along for the ride, or in a yard or at the doorway to a dog’s home, law enforcement officers who consider the dog’s behavior and the context of the interaction appropriately will avoid injury to themselves. They will also avoid the negative publicity that inevitably attends an excessive use of force against man’s best friend.

“The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters” offers a valuable framework for effective response strategies to any situation where a dog is present. Officers learn how to assess a dog’s environment, distinguish between warning signals and signs of friendliness, and which of their actions can calm a tense, uncertain situation. The authors illustrate their points with drawings and photographs of a variety of common canine postures and also include case studies to reinforce the recommendations for best practices.

In addition to discussing how to maintain appropriate control when encountering a dog, special instructions are included for those who evaluate and report on dog-related incidents.
Bernard K. Melekian, Director of the COPS Office, served as a law enforcement dog-handler during the 1970’s. “I know this would have been a wonderfully useful publication to have back then,” reads his special letter introducing the manual.

Law enforcement agencies and officers can contact NCRC to obtain free copies of “The Problem of Dog-Related Incidents and Encounters.” They can also download copies at no charge from either the NCRC website at http://www.tinyurl.com/copsdogsafetyguide, or from the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at http://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ResourceDetail.aspx?RID=612.

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The mission of National Canine Research Council (NCRC) is to preserve the human-canine bond. NCRC publishes, underwrites, and reprints accurate, documented, reliable research to promote a better understanding of our relationship with dogs. Visit http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com to learn more.

Bernard K. Melekian has been the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/) since 2009. He is a decorated veteran of the Santa Monica (California) Police Department, where he served for 23 years. He was formerly Police Chief of Pasadena.

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