TWIN FALLS • Mail carriers get more training on how to handle a dog encounter than the average law enforcement officer in Idaho does.
Idaho’s police academy teaches only the basics, said Rory Olsen, deputy division administrator for Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training in Boise.
“We don’t do any training whatsoever on animals. None,” Olsen told the Times-News in February. “That training is left up to individual police departments.”
“There is absolutely no reason officers cannot get some training,” said Debbie Blackwood, director of the Twin Falls Animal Shelter.
She blames the recent proliferation of dog shootings by police on a lack of training.
“There is training even through the magic of the internet,” she said.
“Training? None,” said Gooding County Sheriff Shaun Gough. “We encounter dogs every day, and we’ve never had to shoot one. I don’t know how you would train for that, other than common sense.”
Jerome County addresses animal control under its deadly force policy, said sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jack Johnson.
“I wouldn’t say there isn’t training,” Johnson said, “but there isn’t a formal class. We recommend using the same ‘escalation of force’ as in any other situation — which means using pepper spray first.”
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Jeff Rossenthal, a veterinarian and CEO of the Idaho Humane Society in Boise, said his officers are trained at the National Animal Control Association.
“Our officers are deputized and enforce local and state animal and animal-cruelty laws,” Rossenthal said.
For years, Blackwood and Twin Falls animal shelter staff handled animal control for local authorities.
She endorses non-lethal ways to deal with dogs running at large.
“We (at the shelter) did animal control for 10 years,” she said. Shooting a dog was not an option. “We weren’t offered weapons.”
Blackwood said she has trained several service organizations on how to deal with loose dogs. Now she teaches dog safety classes to children.
To avoid getting bit by a vicious dog, she said, “I tell them to put something between themselves and the dog — a backpack or a stick. There are vicious dogs out there, and the ultimate responsibility for the dog rests with the owner.”
Animal shelter staff “have educated ourselves ...to handle and interact with dogs that may pose a threat to humans or other animals in a way that is safe both for us and the animal in question,” she said.