In today’s world, most every law enforcement officer and animal control officer risks encountering dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs on a daily basis. Dog bites cost millions of dollars every year to agencies in the form of workers compensation claims, medical expenses, lost manpower, and damaged equipment. Additionally, the potential civil liability to the agency or country government makes dog bite prevention a very real and high priority item for agencies to address. A recent study discovered that the total annual medical expenses associated with dog bites exceeded $180 million in the United States. The American Animal Cruelty Investigations School (AACIS), strongly supports the use of training tools such as chemical immobilization, bite sticks, and oleoresin capsicum (O.C. spray) certification training for all agencies. This training improves the safety of the officers, the public, and even the animals involved.
Chemical immobilization is perhaps the best way to prevent dog bites as the animals are anesthetized and unable to move. This tool is very effective when dealing with aggressive, dangerous dogs that cannot be captured using traditional methods such as catch poles and traps. Additionally, chemical immobilization is an excellent option when responding to animals that have been struck by vehicles but are still conscious. The risk of being bitten by an injured animal is ten times the normal risk. Chemically immobilized animals may be handled and moved much safer than those that are not. Furthermore, the animal does not feel the pain from their injury during movement to the transport vehicle, en route transport, and removal from the vehicle at the destination. Finally, the use of chemical immobilization reflects professionalism with an agency an gives a more positive public image; nothing looks worse than an officer slinging an injured animal onto a truck by a catch pole.
Bite sticks and O.C. sprays are both excellent tools for officers to carry on their duty belts. Bite sticks can be very quickly presented as the target for a charging dog to attack rather than the officers arms, legs, or body. Expandable bite sticks are easy to carry partially concealed in your hand as you approach and speak to the public. This gives the bite stick an advantage over a catch pole; catch poles tend to anger the public because, when carried by approaching officers, people automatically assume you are approaching with the intent to take their dog away from them. Bite sticks, on the other hand, are barely noticeable and provide good protection from potentially dangerous dogs. And should the officer actually be attacked by a dog, bite sticks are much easier to use as an improvised impact weapon to make the dog release and retreat.
O.C. spray can be utilized to prevent a potentially dangerous encounter with a dog from escalating into an attack. This can be accomplished by a quick spray towards the ground that allows the O.C. mist to create a barrier between you and the animal. In this type of application, the animal is not directly sprayed, but feels the slight effects by inhaling a small amount of the O.C. spray; the dog will usually change its mind and run off. Dogs that appear more aggressive may have to be directly sprayed to prevent the attack. AACIS must point out that when it comes to a dog that has made up it’s mind to attack you, even a direct shot of O.C. spray may not be enough to stop the attack. O.C. spray works best on animals that are deciding whether or not they wish to attack.
From a risk management perspective, the cost of training and equipping officers is one of the best investments an agency can make to ensure the safety of their officers. To illustrate this, a single dog bite incident requiring the officer to be hospitalized would cost the agency approximately $20,000 for treatment, not including the cost of any required surgery. That does not include any other workers compensation, lost wages, or lost manpower for the agency. The total cost to train and equip an officer with a bite stick, O.C. spray, and a chemical immobilization dart gun, blow pipe, and pole syringe is about $1,200. In this case, the benefits far outweigh the risks and the decision should be a “no-brainer”.
AACIS is a strong proponent of safety for the officer, the public, and the animals involved. We believe that properly trained officers boost the professionalism of the agency and the publics image of animal control and law enforcement personnel. In turn, this helps limit an agency’s exposure to civil liability and helps save budget dollars from wasteful claims. For more information, you can click here to see the various safety courses that AACIS offers and even schedule a date for AACIS to come to your agency and provide the training for you.