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Teaching law enforcement to humanely handle aggressive animals

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Every day, law enforcement officers come in contact with animals.

Sometimes it’s a stray, and other times it’s someone’s pet.

“During the day, we have the services of animal control officers who are experts in what they do. But after 5 o’clock, the uniform officer becomes the animal control officer after hours,” said Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page.

It’s a challenge many law enforcement agencies face.

That’s why the North Carolina Animal Federation has started a course to teach officers how to read and interact with animals, especially when they become aggressive.

“I think it's important to give them a knowledge of animal behavior for them to be able to understand and know how to de-escalate a situation, versus an action that may escalate an animal,” said Leigh Anne Garrard, vice chair for the North Carolina Animal Federation.

Garrard went over several techniques during the two hour course, but she says the easiest solution is to simply ask owners to put their pet away.

If that isn’t an option, she says the best tool officers have is their voice or inflection. Another option is to use tools like pepper spray or an ASP baton.

Garrard says humanely capturing and handling aggressive animals is important, because the animal is usually just doing its job by protecting people and property.

Garrard says the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office was the first law enforcement agency to receive the training, but she hopes to eventually roll the program out across the state.