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EDITORIAL: Dog and pony show

Emotions shouldn’t guide public policy. However, emotional arguments are the favorite currency of a fast-rising lobby: animal lovers. Time and again, that currency pays off.

The latest emotion-driven cause for activist pet owners: Police officers who kill dogs. In response to those heated agitations, state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, told the Review-Journal’s Ed Vogel he plans to introduce legislation in 2015 to impose new dog training on Nevada law enforcement officers.

We’re not minimizing the anguish any pet owner would feel if a beloved animal were killed by police. It’s unfortunate, but police encounter animals all the time in the course of their duties. Unpredictable and dangerous situations are bound to happen, especially when so many pet owners in this valley are hopelessly irresponsible.

Bill Cassell, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, reports 17 incidents in which officers used potentially deadly force against a dog between 2011 and Sept. 30 of this year, with eight dogs killed. He added that Las Vegas police already get some training on handling unmanageable dogs, and that police try to call animal control if they know a dog might be at a crime scene.

A potential model for Sen. Parks’ bill is a Colorado law that requires a minimum of three hours of police training in understanding dogs. As reported by Mr. Vogel, animal activists there won passage of that law by claiming that 30 dogs had been killed by police over a five-year period.

So six dog deaths per year justified a new Colorado police training requirement? And Las Vegas, with less than half that rate, also needs such a state law? Gina Greisen, who heads Nevada Voters for Animals, told Mr. Vogel she will make Sen. Parks’ bill a campaign issue in next year’s race for Clark County sheriff, and that she wants the bill to include cats and other pets.


Las Vegas police shoot and kill far more people than pets every year, resulting in millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements, and a state lawmaker wants to subject officers to hours of training on dog behavior? The department has far larger cultural issues that require immediate attention — issues that, once addressed, could help officers deal with dogs.

Sen. Parks, like so many elected officials, sees no political reason to say no to the animal welfare agenda. Anyone who dares say that this is a problem unworthy of legislative intervention can be smeared as a pet hater come re-election time. Voting for the bill, however, comes with no downside. Everyone loves pets, right?

But just because we love our pets doesn’t mean they should have special protections and considerations, let alone be considered equals to people under the law. Make no mistake, that’s the incremental goal of the animal welfare crowd, and politicians are scared to death to aggressively debate it. Sen. Parks’ bill won’t accomplish anything beyond adding costs to police budgets and taking officers off the streets for feel-good training that may not save a single canine life, and he knows it.

That’s what happens when emotions guide public policy. Lawmakers should rely on reason instead.

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