States that mandate canine behavior training for police officer certification

While there are projects other than PuppycideDB that have published information related to the use of lethal force by police against toward animals, there are few research projects dedicated specifically to the issue. For that reason, our volunteers regularly receive questions from journalists, researchers and organizations looking for information related to police shootings of dogs. From time to time we receive questions that there genuinely does not appear to be any clear answers to available online - so we decided that we will begin posting those answers to our blog and throughout our main website to ensure that anyone who needs that information can find it quickly and easily.

Today's question is this:

"Which states have mandatory police officer training for canine encounters?"

It is our current understanding that only four states mandate some form of canine behavior training for police officers. There are some important provisos to this claim, which we will explore after the chart listing the states, the legislation enacting the mandatory training, and the year the legislation was enacted:

States with mandatory canine behavior training
State Legislation Year Enacted
Texas HB 593 2014 / 2015
Tennessee TN Code § 4-7-118 & § 38-8-117 2003
Illinois PA 098-0311 & 50 ILCS 705/10.14 2013
Colorado Dog Protection Act 2013
Ohio HB 64 - R.C. 109.747, 109.77, and 109.79 2015 / 2016

As with all of our findings, we welcome additional information and critique. If you are aware of a state that mandates canine encounter training for police officers that let us know! Before you reach out, be sure to keep a few extra details in mind.

Regulations that mandate police training for canine encounters and behavior is quite different that regulations that mandate police training for police K9 encounters and behavior. Particularly for readers who are not lawyers or legal students, it can be very easy to confuse the two. The latter form of regulation deals with who should be able to train dogs to sniff out drugs or bombs, or to chase and bite fleeing suspects - and how that training should be carried out. Just about all 50 states have some sort of law on the books establishing a protocol for police K9's. Quite a few states also have laws on the books that specify training for police officers who will be handling police K9's. This last set of rules can be even more difficult for laymen to differentiate from rules concerning police encounters with civilian dogs, because both groups of regulations handle mandatory police training for canine behavior.

There is more to consider apart from similarly phrased legislation.

The United States has approximately 18,000 separate and unique law enforcement agencies. Most of these agencies are municipal, city, county or state police departments. When considering state-wide mandates of canine training, it is important to remember that cities, counties, municipalities and even individual police departments can and do mandate this training in spite of a requirement for training in their state of operation. The Boise Police Department, for example, requires officers to take canine behavior and encounter training even though the state of Idaho has no such requirement.

Further complicating matters are states like California, which have enacted legislation that sets standards for courses teaching police officers how to interact with dogs, but makes such training optional. Police officers in California have a requirement for ongoing educational credits, which can be satisfied by taking a small selection of a wide variety of different training classes - one of which is canine encounter training.

The result of this is that when researchers consider variances in rates of companion animal shootings by police across the states in comparison to police training, it cannot be taken for granted that the state in which a specific shooting occurs will be an accurate proxy for the training the shooter received focusing on dog behavior.

In the Puppycide Database Project's forthcoming series reviewing the efficacy of training in reducing the numbers of dogs shot by police, we have focused our review to a sample of individual police departments that have enacted various training regimens or that have no training requirements for canine encounters. Statewide measurement of officer training levels in locations without a state-wide mandate would be a massive undertaking requiring documentation from many sources; depending on the transparency laws and record keeping practices of the law enforcement agencies, it may even be impossible for an organization working outside of government to acquire such comprehensive data.

Do you have a question for the Puppycide Database Project? Then contact us and let us know! We will always protect the privacy of everyone who contacts us to submit or request information.