Animal group urges training for police

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In response to an incident in which a dog was shot and killed by a Berkeley Police Department officer earlier this month, the Berkeley Animal Care Commission voted to request detailed protocol of previous police interactions with animals and additional police training to better recognize animal behavior at its meeting Wednesday night.

The vote came almost three weeks after a Berkeley police officer shot and killed the pet dog of Berkeley resident Shay ben Yishay in Yishay's home April 2 while on a house call. The dog began growling as it approached one of the officers and appeared to leap toward the officer, at which point the officer fired, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

At the meeting Wednesday, the commission reviewed a report on all animal-related shootings in Berkeley from the past five years and decided to request that the police department receive training from the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which provides animal behavior and response education through live training workshops.

"The commission took the only action they could," said Jill Posener, a former commissioner who was present at the meeting. "Having different protocols and different training for the police officers is a good idea."

Anne Wagley, the chair of the commission, said the Berkeley Police Department should be cooperative in providing detailed reports of incidents in which animals are involved.

"Any single incident is tragic and horrible for any dog owner," Wagley said. "I think the police department will follow through on training because they have already been in contact with the SPCA, and the commission will make sure this gets done."

The Oakland Police Department's existing partnership with the East Bay SPCA serves as a model for the Berkeley Police Department, Posener said.

"The SPCA actually reached out to us, and the partnership has been wonderful and free," Oakland Police Department Officer Holly Joshi said in an email. "The most important part of the training is recognizing dog behaviors, and we have incorporated both live training at the SPCA and in-class video that all officers will receive once per year."

The commission also decided to send a condolence letter to Yishay, which will be reviewed at the commission's next meeting in May.

Contact Anjuli Sastry at [email protected]

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