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Why is our ‘Safer Dog Handling Manual’ so crucial?

Animals should be treated, and physically handled, with care and compassion. To fail to do so may cause harm and injury, not only to the animal and the handler, but also to the whole community. 

Why this is important to the police?

The police have a duty of care for all members of society, including animals. This is the basis of our Ukrainian training project.

In the USA, it is estimated that a dog is shot by a police officer every 98 minutes –roughly 182,000 a year. In 20% of cases, a child was either in the line of fire or in the immediate area. (No figures are available for animal-police interactions in Ukraine.) 

How the police treat members of the community is increasingly coming under scrutiny, with more cameras and accelerated information sharing through social media. 

Animals or people?

Two sociologists at Northeastern University in the US tested a claim that people are more upset by news stories of animal abuse than they are about attacks directed toward humans.

The experts on human-animal relationships, serial killers and mass murders asked college students to read a series of fake news accounts about a crime wave affecting adult humans, children, an adult dog and some puppies.

The news account in which the victim was a human adult elicited, by far, the lowest levels of emotional distress in the readers. 

The ‘winner’ when it came to evoking empathy was not the puppy, but the human infant. The puppy, however, came in a close second, with the adult dog not far behind.

Their conclusion? Innocent and defenceless creatures provoked a stronger response from the students.

Who would you save?

In another experiment, 573 individuals were asked who they would save in a series of hypothetical scenarios in which a dog and a person were in the path of an out-of-control bus.
The conclusions found that decisions to save the person or the dog were affected by three factors:

1. Who the person in danger was – The subjects selected those they would save in the following order; dog, known person, stranger.

2. Who the dog was – 40% of participants said they would save their personal pet at the expense of a foreign tourist. However, only 14% claimed they would sacrifice the tourist when the animal in the scenario was described generically as ‘a dog’.

3. The gender of the participant – As other studies have found, women care more about animals than men. In the runaway-bus scenario, female subjects were nearly twice as likely as males to say they would save a dog over a person.

Whilst clearly the police should treat both animals and humans with respect, a video of police mishandling a dog or puppy might have a significant detrimental impact on the way they are perceived.

This is continually borne out by watching Ukrainian social media. Mistreating an animal is very badly thought of, to such an extent that people can be ostracised from communities if images or film circulates of them even pulling a dog too harshly. 

How are we helping?

We wanted to ensure the welfare of as many dogs as possible by teaching correct handling procedures but also explaining to the police why that mattered.

The police asked for our help, which we were happy to provide: 

• Our expert dog trainer, Brian, travelled to Ukraine to teach the police how to work with dogs. 

• In February 2020, we travelled to Kyiv to present our manual to the patrol police. 

• In July 2020, during the pandemic, when we couldn’t travel to Ukraine, we started providing copies of our safer dog manual to the police. 

We want to thank our supporters for making this happen and helping to make the animals of Ukraine a little safer.