How to Not Shoot a Dog

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Unfortunately for Knucklehead, the officer in question did not take John Denny's course
Yesterday, SF Weekly wrote about the sad fate of Knucklehead, Steven Coffman's beloved 2-year-old service dog, which was shot dead by a California Highway Patrol officer.

Officer John Denny, the San Francisco Police Department's Vicious and Dangerous Animals Unit, said the news of the man-shoots-dog incident created quite a buzz at the city's Animal Control Department. "You're talking about people here who'd rather take a bite than shoot a dog," he says.

Ideally, however, neither of those unpleasant events needs to take place. In fact, Denny teaches a course on it.

Every two years, police officers, sergeants, and inspectors are required to take 40 hours of "advanced officer training" for the Police Officer Standards and Training certification. Part of that involves learning from Denny how to handle a charging, aggressive dog; so far he's instructed around half the department.

Denny notes that some people do feel inclined to use "puppy tones" on wayward dogs -- but this is not his chosen method. When faced with a dog doing something wrong, step one is just what you'd think it would be -- tell it to stop.

Key police equipment?
"Even the nastiest dog, the owner has tried to get it to sit or stay," Denny says. "I tell the officers to get as big as you can and yell 'sit,' 'stay,' or 'stop.' Let him know you're the alpha dog. Ninety-nine percent of the time, that works. The last thing an officer wants to do is turn and run."

Showing one's back to a dog is also a poor idea. If need be, one can always jump atop the police car. While you're doing that -- or perhaps even before -- you have time to take out the 24-inch baton. This is a difficult decision for officers, Denny notes. Being 24 inches away from a rampaging beast is "awfully uncomfortable. You need to give the dog a tag book, the end of a baton, something to bite." Pepper spray "sometimes works. Sometimes it doesn't. Just like with humans."

And sometimes ingenuity is called for. Denny recalls a pair of creative officers facing down an aggressive dog in Bayview. Rather than use any of the above methods, one of them tossed the remnants of his lunch, a hamburger, into the back of the patrol car. When the dog jumped in to finish it off, he was locked in.

Denny isn't sure if the hamburger method is for everyone. But it probably has more going for it than "puppy tones."

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This is stupid for many reasons, just feel-good fluff. Let's take a look at one tiny example to see why.

"Rather than use any of the above methods, one of them tossed the remnants of his lunch, a hamburger, into the back of the patrol car. When the dog jumped in to finish it off, he was locked in."

And now I'll finish the scenario: And once the dog was locked in the back of the patrol car, the officers drove the dog, which was barking incessantly, to the nearest animal shelter where, sadly, it was put down the following day during regular business hours.

Gwyn Teninty
Gwyn Teninty

Usually the dog is returned to its owner, because unless it actually bites someone, its not put down. I have worked with animal control closely as a vet nurse throughout the years, and they don't just put dogs down without waiting for the dogs owner to redeem them for a certain set period of time.  But once again, you really don't know what you are talking about here.


No, Gwyn, unless the dog has tags or an owner that actually cares to search for it, a captured dog is not "usually" returned. Now why don't you just quit trying? I've given you every opportunity to provide an argument and it is blatantly obvious that you have nothing.

Gwyn Teninty
Gwyn Teninty

You a dead wrong here. But all of their dogs are microchipped and registered, so their dogs wouldn't fall under your scenario anyway.  But I happen to know a dog wouldn't just be put down the next day, because I do dog rescue and have worked at emergency animal veterinary hospitals (Pets Unlimited in S.F., Pets Emergency in Berkeley, Vetcare in Dublin, East Bay Vetrinary Emergency in Antioch, etc.) that have Animal Control contracts in the Counties I worked (SF, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano, Sacramento, & Nevada). All have at least 3 day holds before they adopt out or put healthy animals down, unless they are injured and need life sustaining medical care that will cost the county more money than their guidelines allow.


jeez - haven't these people seen Dog Whisperer?

Shhhhh!   ShhhhhhHH!

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