ATLANTA — Too often a pet snarling to protect its home or owner is killed by law-enforcement officers due to misunderstanding or lack of training, according to a lawmaker who introduced legislation Thursday to require training.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, introduced House Bill 803 along with Democrats Margaret Kaiser of Atlanta and Karla Drenner of Avondale Estates.

“We’re having a good many animals put down, shot by police officers,” Benton said. “A constituent of mine told me referred to me a good friend of hers told me about a problem they have here in the city of Atlanta.”

In most cases, dogs are merely acting on instinct, he said.

The training in how to “negotiate encounters with animals and the ways in which a peace officer can control and neutralize an animal” would be part of new officer’s basic instruction. Veterans would have to get it when they return for their existing refresher course requirements.

“I think it’s good practice because these animals are pets,” Benton said. “For the most part they’re not vicious. They don’t know people, and so in some cases the first reaction is to shoot them.” 

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