Gulfport Police get "aggressive dog" training - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport Police get "aggressive dog" training

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Police officers in Gulfport are learning what to do when they encounter aggressive or dangerous dogs. An expert instructor from Texas spent the day Monday teaching officers how to avoid using deadly force when dealing with such animals.

It was just last week that a Gulfport officer shot a pit bull in someone's yard; a dog that later had to be euthanized. However, the timing of this class is merely coincidence.

Police Chief Alan Weatherford decided several months ago to hold the training after noticing an increase in the number of his officers encountering aggressive dogs while on duty.

"Be prepared for a dog," instructor Jim Osorio told the group of officers. "Like I told you earlier, one in three houses in the United States, there's a dog in that house usually."

He says police already know how to use lethal force. It's his job to teach them alternative approaches.

"Whether using a control pole, a leash, how to muzzle a dog if you think you might get bit. And you know what, you never know. There's 30 breeds a year that bite. And it's not always the pitbull. The pitbull is not even in the top five that bite," he said.

Coral, a four year old German shepherd is his partner in the training course. She can be intimidating if provoked.

He teaches officers the ten different types of aggressive behavior demonstrated by dogs. And gives them valuable clues about determining if an animal may be a problem.

"If you walk on somebody's property, you need to figure out that body language. And that's what this course actually goes over. We'll go over the body language with the officers. You know, what to look for," said Osorio.

There's also show-and-tell instruction on the non-lethal tools officers may use.

"They all know what this control pole is and they don't want to be on it," he said, as he used it on his dog for demonstration, "You come up to the dog, put it on and tighten it."

"This class can help us be more judicious in making our decisions and what we're going to do enforcement wise," explained Chris Lopasser with the Gulfport Police Department. "The way we plan certain things. But inevitably there's always the case where officers are going to run into a situation where they have to act instantly. And they don't have a lot of time or forethought to plan. It's just an instantaneous decision."

"This is the kind of dog you would mostly deal with with people that are selling drugs or using drugs," said the instructor, showing a slide of an angry dog showing its teeth.

The instructor says an officer's greatest assets are often awareness and common sense.

"Don't be afraid to back away. Don't be afraid to step back and re-evaluate the situation.  Nobody's asking you to jump right into harm's way," he said.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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