AUSTIN (KXAN) - Chief Art Acevedo expressed sympathy about a highly talked-about case involving an Austin police officer who shot and killed a man's dog while responding to the incorrect address.
Speaking with Cisco's owner Michael Paxton on KLBJ-FM's "Dudley and Bob Morning Show," Acevedo apologized about the incident and also commented on police procedure.
"Believe it or not, we are animal lovers just like any one else," said Acevedo. "I want to say I am sorry on behalf of all the members of the department.
"Last night, I saw you on TV and my heart went out to you," he added. "It is bumming me out. I am a pet person and most of us are."
The "Justice for Cisco" Facebook page had received more than 40,225 "likes" as of noon Tuesday.
Acevedo said the shooting would be reviewed and told Paxton that nothing would change the sorrow.
According to written police policy, Austin officers who believe an animal poses an imminent threat to themselves or others have the discretion to use deadly force to minimize that, according to an APD policy statement.
The statement also encourages officers whenever possible to develop contingency plans to neutralize animals without shooting to kill. The options in those cases include use of a stun gun, pepper spray or even fire extinguishers to stop an aggressive animal.
The police also says that "where possible," an officer should give warning before firing on an animal.
However, the policy does not expressly require officers to forego shooting to kill, nor does it require that a warning be given.
"Nothing in this policy shall prohibit any officer from resorting to deadly force to control a dangerous animal if circumstances reasonably dictate that a contingency plan has failed or becomes impracticable," the policy says.
A similar incident happened in September 2000 when an Austin Police Officer responded to a home in Northwest Austin after a home alarm went off. Three dogs approached the officer, barking. One dog, an Australian Sheppard mix named "Tawny" was shot and killed.
"We thought through our efforts that it wouldn't happen again. Unfortunately, in seeing what happened to Michael and Cisco, it just reminded us that despite our efforts it did happen again," said Christi Davis O'Brien.
The O'Brien family approached the police chief and city council at the time in 2000 to see about policy changes at the Austin Police Department.
"We were told there would be a class developed that all cadets would take on how to deal with domestic animals when they reported to a home. And that class would also be offered to officers as part of the continuing education they receive every year," O'Brien.
Another incident in August of 2010 in which a Travis County Park Ranger shot a dog in the face at Pace Bend Park after fearing for his life, also sparked a discussion on police officer training in Austin. During an interview in August 2010, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said a class would be formed for cadets to train them how to deal with potentially dangerous animals. But, according to the Austin Police Department, that class is currently not offered at the academy.
"It's disheartening to see that not only the policies not continued, but it's likely, they were never even implemented," O'Brien said.
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