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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to Not Shoot a Dog

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Unfortunately for Knucklehead, the officer in question did not take John Denny's course
  • Unfortunately for Knucklehead, the officer in question did not take John Denny's course

Yesterday, SF Weekly wrote about the sad fate of Knucklehead, Steven Coffman's beloved 2-year-old service dog, which was shot dead by a California Highway Patrol officer.

Officer John Denny, the San Francisco Police Department's Vicious and Dangerous Animals Unit, said the news of the man-shoots-dog incident created quite a buzz at the city's Animal Control Department. "You're talking about people here who'd rather take a bite than shoot a dog," he says.

Ideally, however, neither of those unpleasant events needs to take place. In fact, Denny teaches a course on it.

Every two years, police officers, sergeants, and inspectors are required to take 40 hours of "advanced officer training" for the Police Officer Standards and Training certification. Part of that involves learning from Denny how to handle a charging, aggressive dog; so far he's instructed around half the department.

Denny notes that some people do feel inclined to use "puppy tones" on wayward dogs -- but this is not his chosen method. When faced with a dog doing something wrong, step one is just what you'd think it would be -- tell it to stop.

click to enlarge Key police equipment?
  • Key police equipment?
"Even the nastiest dog, the owner has tried to get it to sit or stay," Denny says. "I tell the officers to get as big as you can and yell 'sit,' 'stay,' or 'stop.' Let him know you're the alpha dog. Ninety-nine percent of the time, that works. The last thing an officer wants to do is turn and run."

Showing one's back to a dog is also a poor idea. If need be, one can always jump atop the police car. While you're doing that -- or perhaps even before -- you have time to take out the 24-inch baton. This is a difficult decision for officers, Denny notes. Being 24 inches away from a rampaging beast is "awfully uncomfortable. You need to give the dog a tag book, the end of a baton, something to bite." Pepper spray "sometimes works. Sometimes it doesn't. Just like with humans."

And sometimes ingenuity is called for. Denny recalls a pair of creative officers facing down an aggressive dog in Bayview. Rather than use any of the above methods, one of them tossed the remnants of his lunch, a hamburger, into the back of the patrol car. When the dog jumped in to finish it off, he was locked in.

Denny isn't sure if the hamburger method is for everyone. But it probably has more going for it than "puppy tones."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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