Maggie Couch of Aurora rallies in favor of Senate Bill 226, which would require police to undergo annual training about dog behavior.
Maggie Couch of Aurora rallies in favor of Senate Bill 226, which would require police to undergo annual training about dog behavior. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

An Erie woman whose German shepherd was shot in the back by a police officer tearfully urged state senators to approve a bill requiring law enforcement officers to receive training on how to deal with dogs.

Brittany Moore told her story twice Wednesday, first on the west steps of the Capitol at a rally attended by dog lovers and then before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which unanimously approved the bipartisan measure.

She broke down several times, including when she recounted telling her 7-, 6- and 5-year-old-daughters that their dog Ava was dead.

The measure — dubbed the "Don't Shoot My Dog" bill — next will be heard by the full Senate. The measure requires sheriff's and police departments to develop training programs that prepare law enforcement for encounters with dogs. The training emphasizes how to recognize dog behaviors and employ non-lethal methods to control dogs.

Sponsors Sens. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and David Balmer, R-Centennial, brought their dogs to the rally, as did others who supported Senate Bill 226.

"This bill is about animals we hold dear," Guzman said.


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Moore was among several witnesses who became emotional as they described their pets being shot by police.

She called police May 10, 2011, because of threatening calls she was receiving.

She said the officer initially went to the wrong house, and as he was walking to her home, her "friendly and curious" dogs, Ava and Ivy, walked toward him. She said the officer put his hand on his gun and backed up.

"I yelled to Ava, and she stopped and turned and looked at me. That's when we made eye contact," Moore said.

The officer fired.

"A rawhide bone fell from Ava's mouth, and she made the most awful sound that I have ever heard and immediately fell to the ground," Moore said. "She tried to get up one last time, but her hind legs wouldn't work because her spinal cord was severed."

She said police told her they "had to" shoot the dog because it was a threat.

"Ava never posed a threat at any time that night," Moore said. "The only threat that night was an officer discharging his weapon less than five feet away from me in a neighborhood with kids playing outside."

Another witness, a former deliveryman for UPS, said he encountered dogs regularly during his 14 years on the job but the idea of hurting one was "unthinkable."

"I'm not a dog whisperer," he said, to laughter. "I just used common sense ... and a little restraint."

At the rally, the song "Who Let the Dogs Out?" blared as dog lovers waved signs, including ones that read "Pro dogs, Pro cops, Pro 226" and "Protect our Fur-Kids."

Balmer asked several questions about dogs, including "Why do we have slobber marks all over the sliding glass doors?" and "Why do we say yes to whatever the vet says it will cost for a procedure?" and "Why have we spent so much time writing this bill?"

He then led the crowd in chanting the answer: "Because we love our dogs."

Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327, lbartels@denverpost.com or twitter.com/lynn_bartels