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SPCA Offers Dog Training To Hawthorne Police

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The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles has offered specialized training to Hawthorne police in hopes of preventing more tragedies like the death of Max the Rottweiler.

Hawthorne Police Chief Robert Fager is considering the offer to provide training for handling situations involving dogs that could be a threat, according to the spcaLA.

"The more training you have, the more disciplined you are, the less likely you are to panic," Madeline Bernstein, whose agency has provided training for postal workers and meter readers, told the Daily Breeze. The training would include how to read dog body language and non-lethal methods of dog control.

"Part of it has to do with reading the body language of animals," Bernstein said. "You start by recognizing certain warning signs."

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Allison Lindquist, president of the East Bay SPCA, whose organization created a DVD that is now mandatory for officers in Oakland after a fatal dog shooting, says, "All dogs bark and they will bark at anything or anyone coming near their property. It's a normal reaction."

Instead of Tasers, which can cause a dog to bolt, or pepper spray, Lindquist recommends officers use a baton to tap a dog on the nose or place in its jaws, or use a loop on a pole as animal control officers do.

"Sometimes a firm 'sit' or 'stop' " is effective and can calm a dog down," she added.

Torrance police Sgt. Robert Watt said that fire extinguishers, kept in all patrol cars, "work very well" to deter a dog and cause no damage.

Bernstein said it is important to be able to tell "the difference between a dog that will attack and one that is agitated." She hopes that more training "will go a long way to avoiding this. But if an officer doesn't know that and uses the only weapon he has, you can have a tragedy."

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The fatal shooting of Max may have received the most press, but it's not the only recent dog shot by local police: In December 2012, a dog in Pico Rivera was Tased before being shot twice and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.

On June 20, just 10 days before the shooting of Max, a German shepherd was shot by an El Monte police officer inside a family's fenced-in-yard after it approached him in an aggressive manner. The family had to have the dog euthanized.

Current policy is that if there is an imminent threat of serious injury or death, "shooting is a legitimate option," retired Los Angeles police Capt. Greg Meyer told the Daily Breeze. It appeared the officers in Max's case had little time to come up with an alternate approach. "This was very fast-breaking and the threat was very immediate," Meyer said. "There was no time to think about pepper spray or a Taser. ... Obviously, it was a very emotional situation and is regrettable."

"It's really sad," Lindquist said. "The dog was just doing his job but he probably would have bitten those officers. That's not the fault of the dog, but I can see where they felt they were in danger."

Austin, Forth Worth and Oakland have all adopted dog training for their police departments.

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