A silent epidemic of what animal rights activists and pet owners call “puppycide” – the surprisingly frequent shooting of family dogs by police and animal control officers – has been taken up by lawmakers in Texas. A bill in the state House of Representatives that would mandate new training for officers who encounter canines won preliminary approval earlier this week. The measure is expected to move through the Legislature in the coming weeks, reports News Channel 10 (KFDA in Amarillo).

The officer training proposal, introduced in January, came after a rookie officer in Fort Worth killed a border collie last year. The officer was afraid of dogs and had not received training to deal with them out in the field, News 10 reported.

There are no state or national databases that track police shooting of dogs, and the FBI and the federal Department of Justice do not collect data on them. Last year, however, animal rights activists developing a documentary about police dog shootings calculated the incidence from news stories as part of a campaign to push for training reforms. "Every 98 minutes, a dog is shot by law enforcement," the fundraising page for the documentary “Puppycide” asserts. In 2012, journalist Radley Balko found 100 news reports of such incidents, the Atlantic reported.

In Texas, local police departments have already started training in anticipation of the state mandate. "In police work, you kind of keep abreast of those kind of things and you can see where things may be headed for more training. So, one of the things that we did is contact a guy that does that kind of training for law enforcement," Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas told News 10. 

"We did go ahead and start training to allow the officers to get this type of training before it was required,” said Sgt. Brent Barbee of the Amarillo Police Department. “The public needs to know that we do everything we can to try to avoid a lethal confrontation with a dog."