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After shooting, renewed interest in pet safety bill

Avondale Estates Decatur Metro ATL

After shooting, renewed interest in pet safety bill

A German shepherd. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A German shepherd. Source: Wikimedia Commons

There’s renewed interest in a bill that would require better police training after a DeKalb Police officer shot a Gresham Park resident’s pet German shepherd.

The police officer resigned on Monday, July 28, after the police department opened an internal affairs investigation into the July 24 incident. Tim Theall said the officer shot his dog, Doctor, after responding to a false burglar alarm. Doctor is currently undergoing medical treatment, but Theall wants to prevent similar incidents.

“I’m definitely going to do what I can,” Theall said.

Theall said he would support legislation that would require police officers to undergo training to help them tell the difference between an aggressive animal and a harmless family pet.

State Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, cosponsored House Bill 803, but it died in this year’s legislative session. Drenner said she intends to cosponsor the bill again, and said Theall’s experience shows the need for it.

“I plan to reintroduce the bill and this incident continues to support the need for additional training,” she said.

Police departments in the metro area could not easily provide Decaturish specific data on “use of force” incidents involving dogs, either because they didn’t have any incidents or they did not track that specific data.

Decatur Police Sgt. Jennifer Ross said there have been no “use of force” incidents involving dogs since those reports became automated in 2006.

“We do not have specialized training regarding this topic,” Ross said.

Atlanta Police said the data is not readily available and compiling it would mean combing hundreds of reports. DeKalb Police didn’t respond to an inquiry about the number of incidents where police officers shot pets when responding to a call.

Joann Schwartz, owner of the Kirkwood Feed and Seed pet food store, was a police officer in Rockdale County prior to opening her business. She said she’s still a reserve deputy and has offered to talk to officers about what to do when they encounter animals while on a call, but said no one has taken her up on it.

“It’s very frustrating,” Schwartz said. “There really does need to be training.”

Theall said he’s been overwhelmed with support from people who are concerned about what happened to his dog.

“It’s shown there are a lot of unheard voices out there as far as how we treat our animals … the problem seems to be a lot bigger than just my dog,” Theall said.