Community initiative BARK aims to protect officers, family pets

Sticker notifies officer when pets live in home

By Jennifer Ortega - Reporter

OCOEE, Fla. - Ocoee police have come up with a new community initiative to keep officers and family pets safe just three months after an 11-year-old family dog named Duke was shot and killed by an officer.

The family pet was in the family's gated front yard when it encountered the officer. The incident became the  impetus for the push for pet safety.

Be Aware of Residential K-9s, or BARK, is a new community initiative to take away the element of surprise when officers make a house call.

"Citizens can voluntarily register their home to allow the Police Department to know there's a pet or a canine on premises," Deputy Stephan McCosker said.

McCosker said the pet owner is provided a sticker that can be put in the window of the home. It is reflective so it can be seen at night. If the property is gated, there's an additional sign homeowners can use.

McCosker said officers are already being trained to look for the stickers.

"It really causes a conflict when we have to encounter a canine when we're not expecting it and we have to react," McCosker said. "A lot of dogs, it's their instinct to protect the family. By having the sticker, it allows the officer to know there is going to be a dog."

McCosker said the program has attracted a lot of interest from residents already. The department has posted the initiative on Facebook and it's already been shared dozens of times.

"I definitely think that this is showing we care for our residents' pets which they believe are family members," he said. "I think that's an important thing for police to do."

News 6 spoke to the owner of the dog killed in July's incident. The person said they believe the program is a step in the right direction.

Police said the stickers will be available next week.

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