When Oakland police shot and killed a family's 11-year-old arthritic Labrador last month, they were following procedures. But the incident stirred up plenty of emotion and raised a lot of questions about the way the department reacts to animals on the beat.
The department was already under scrutiny because of an incident in May in which an officer shot and killed a young deer wandering through a residential back yard.
As a result of the shootings, officers will begin learning new ways to deal with wild and domestic animal encounters as part of a partnership with the SPCA.
Department Chief Anthony Batts says he recognizes part of the problem for his officers is that they are trained to sneak up on a possible suspect but when animals sense something lurking, their instincts send them into defense mode. Batts says they need to "find a way to balance those issues."
The chief recruited three SPCA dogs for a news conference on Friday to announce the training. The dogs ranged in behavior -- from the friendly, elderly one to a more nervous one that showed signs of fear.
Introducing the dogs was step one in the department's retraining. The SPCA handler used the three dogs' varying moods to help start the education process in how to interpret animal behavior.
"I want to give officers as many tools as we can," Batts said. "I don't want officers put in a position of being an expert on animal behavior, but I want to provide them with a list of options and alternatives. People don't realize how often, in every city, officers have to encounter dogs and other animals."
The department begins it's animal training at the beginning of November.