Too Many Dogs Are Being Shot By Cops. One Police Department Is Trying To Change That

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 23, 2016

It’s an all-too-frequent occurrence across the country. Police enter a property to execute a search warrant or conduct a raid and they encounter something they didn’t expect — an aggressive dog threatening their safety. This often results in fatal consequences for the dog.

game dog guardians

How can police save the lives of dogs and still properly perform their duties? The Kansas City Police Department is using an innovative approach to answer that question. They are working to reduce tensions between officers and dogs who have committed no crime and are simply protecting their home and family.

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Billy VonWolf, a tactical enforcement officer with the KCPD, told Fox4KC that while conducting nearly 250 risky raids each year, they’ll often come in contact with a dog who seems angry, but in reality just feels threatened and lashes out against officers. Each member of the tactical team has been bitten on raids. Sometimes, due to a dog’s aggressive behavior, a police officer will shoot a dog out of self-defense.

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Captain Charles Huth of the KCPD also told the local news station:

We realized and we would see on these search warrant scenes that people were more upset about us shooting their animals than they were about the actual raid itself.

As dog owners, that’s something VonWolf and Huth could understand.


The pair joined forces with animal behaviorist Anthony Barnett, founder of Game Dog Guardian, to reduce the need for police officers to use deadly force when they encounter aggressive dogs. Barnett observed how a tactical team interacted with dogs in high-pressure situations. He then taught them how to read canine body language. This knowledge will help the officers approach dogs in a non-threatening way and, hopefully, prevent the dog from becoming aggressive. Barnett also taught the officers strategies to subdue already aggressive dogs.

Barnett said:

We talked a lot about threat display and body language. You know, understanding when a dog’s committed to a bite versus just trying to create distance because it’s scared.

For situations where their newfound dog behavior skills couldn’t help, the team switched to semi-automatic tasers from guns to disable dogs temporarily. In each case, officers contact Animal Control to make sure the dog is okay.

According to statistics, the new approach is working: after receiving training, canine fatalities by tactical officers have dropped by 81%.


For their amazing work to help save the lives of dogs, each of these men are being honored with awards from the KCPD. The department also plans to roll out canine behavior training to all officers, which will help keep even more dogs and police officers safe.

Through his nonprofit Game Dog Guardian, Barnett does outreach to spread the word that there are lower-tension alternatives when dealing with fearful dogs, and he is available for consultation and presentations to law enforcement. Watch a video of him and the officers from Fox 4 Kansas City here:

Game Dog Guardian also has a ton of pupdorable and adoptable dogs! Check them out on Facebook.

Feature image via Game Dog Guardian.

h/t via Fox4KC.

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 23, 2016

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