Local News

Raleigh PD Seeks Ways to Improve Handling of Animal Calls

Posted January 10, 2007 7:14 p.m. EST
Updated January 10, 2007 9:00 p.m. EST

— With their wagging tails, their panting tongues and their hopeful eyes, the dogs at the SPCA adoption center in Raleigh are four-legged advertisements for the phrase "man's best friend."

People who work with the animals say even the most docile animal can be unpredictable, however.

"Don't assume any animal is vicious or safe," said Hope Hancock, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County. "You need to read the body language, talk to the owner."

Hancock says the key to staying safe around dogs is proper training.

That's why the SPCA chapter helped the High Point Police Department train officers on how to handle dog calls. Hancock says she is pleased that the city of Raleigh is now looking at improving how officers respond to animal calls.

The move comes after a Raleigh police officer shot and injured a dog on Christmas Day when he was responding to a call about a bite involving a different dog at the same house. An internal investigation into the incident is ongoing, but  the city is looking at making changes. The dog, a Labrador retriever named Truman, is recovering from his wound.

"This is a catalyst, I think, to enhance education and to learn from this particular incident," Hancock said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker asked the city manager this week to brief city leaders on ways to improve how officers respond to these calls.

"Well, there are really two things: One is to have an animal control officer available in the evening, as well as during the day, should there be a call of this nature; and secondly, to review whether additional or different training should be given to the police officers," Meeker said.

Changing the schedules of animal control officers to work more nights, weekend hours and holidays is already under way. Currently, they work only daytime shifts.

Raleigh police already train officers, both in the academy and once they are on the street, about how to handle animal calls, but they are looking at possibly expanding or improving the training.

"No one involved in (the Christmas Day shooting incident) would have wanted it to end the way it did," Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said. "So, we're going to make sure that another similar situation doesn't end this way."

The Christmas Day shooting was one of three that have come to light in the region in the past month. Earlier this week in Roanoke Rapids, an officer fatally wounded a dog after shooting it six times. On Tuesday, a deputy shot a German Shepherd in Cumberland County . The dog is doing OK.

In all three cases, the officers involved said they felt like they were in danger.