53% of American households own dogs, according to recent statistics. If you have ever owned a pet before, you likely know that they become a part of your family. When officers approach a home, it is likely that the owners will have a dog – sometimes the dog is friendly, but other times not. Recent dog encounters have turned deadly, leaving law enforcement agencies with huge lawsuits that have gone over $1 million.
According to a local news source out of Florida, a state embroiled in several dog encounters gone wrong over the past few years and Florida is not one of the only six states in the country require law enforcement officers to be trained in dealing with dogs. January 2022, a Miami-Dade police officer shot a dog 7 times and the agency now faces a hefty lawsuit by the dog’s owner. Additionally, a lawsuit from 2019 has reached $750,000 after a woman’s dog was killed by a SWAT team in St. Louis.
A trifecta program that has existed for years may be part of the solution to this ongoing problem around the country. Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Training (LEDET) was developed in a partnership with the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse and the National Sheriff’s Association. Jim Crosby, member of NLECAA and dog behavior expert, authored an 8-hour class, a DOJ approved Toolkit available for download for free and to be used alongside of six VirTra simulation scenarios that include real actors and dogs.
The following items are available as resources and could be used together or separately:
The video below shows Harford County, MD officers learning from educational graphics and VirTra’s high-quality video scenarios that include dogs. Some scenarios show a property alarm response where a responding officer encounters a dog, and others have a traffic stop where a dog is in the car with the subject.
Remember, current VirTra customers have these scenarios loaded onto their simulators already. If you want to learn more about the LEDET program, download resources or schedule a demonstration here.
Like so many other topics, “dog encounters” is becoming more important in training.
Officers who cannot successfully interpret a canine’s behavior—such as reading cautious as aggressive—will react in a way that isn’t justified. In fact, a quick online search will show dozens of cases where departments were sued, and settled, because an officer wrongfully shot a family pet.
To prevent this, the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse (NLECAA) and the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) partnered to create LEDET—Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Training. Instructors receive structured coursework and real-life scenarios for officers to engage with on VirTra’s simulators.
It’s one thing to describe the program and another to show it in action. Below is a video of an officer engaging in a dog encounter inside the V-300 training simulator. Watch as the officer analyzes the situation—an aggressive dog near a park full of children—and how he correctly diffuses the situation.
Best of all, this video is 360°! If you are watching via desktop, click and drag to see around the simulator. If you are watching on mobile, tap the screen and drag to see different angles of the situation.
To learn more about this DOJ-approved program, visit this site.
To learn about incorporating this program in your training regimen, contact a VirTra specialist.
Due to an increase in officers entering residencies and parks where dogs may roam unleased, there is a good chance officers will run into untrained or uncompliant dogs. While some pups are naturally friendly and curious, others are territorial and aggressive, making it difficult for law enforcement to perform their jobs.
To prevent injury to oneself and unnecessary harm to these pets, VirTra collaborated with the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse (NLECAA) as well as the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) to create the LEDET Dog Encounters nationally-certified curriculum for officers.
For law enforcement officers to gauge their safety, they must first understand canine behavior, which manifests itself via clues to the dog’s mood. For example, a dog with a wagging tail and relaxed posture is happy and extremely unlikely to bite or cause harm. Whereas an aggressive dog will bare their teeth, growl and/or maintain a tense posture. By recognizing these simple signs, officers will know if they can proceed or need extreme caution.
In addition to creating curriculum that teaches which signs to look for, VirTra took training a step further by creating a variety of simulated scenarios. Each scenario has the officer practice correctly identifying the canine’s behavior and diffusing the situation if necessary. An example is featured below in our scenario titled “Property Alarm Response”, where the responding officer correctly analyzes the dog’s behavior and responds properly:
This form of realistic, skill-honing training is designed to reduce and potentially eliminate incidents where an officer kills a family pet due to an inability to properly understand the dog’s intention. Not only does shooting a pet cause distress to the owner, but oftentimes, costly lawsuits can result. Departments can limit these incidents effectively through proper, increased training.