Protecting Our Police Service Animals

Memorial - Police Service Dog Chip, Hope, British Columbia

Memorial - PSD Chip Hope, British Columbia

 

 

Since witnessing the death of one of our police dogs in 2006, I have been researching the laws and regulations surrounding the current status of cruelty to animals.  Specifically, how our Canadian laws protect our police service animals.  Here’s where we stand as of May 2009:

Section 445 of the Criminal Code of Canada:

Every one who willfully and without lawful excuse
A) kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds, or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose, or B) places poison in such a posotion that it may easily be consumed by dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose,

Is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction

As you can see, there are no laws in place to protect police dogs and police horses.  While I’m of the opinion that our laws surrounding cruelty to ALL animals needs to be improved, animals used in law enforcement should have an additional level of protection.  We as society ask so much of our police service animals and they give of themselves without question.

In most cases, police dogs and horses are issued a badge number by their respective police agencies and serve their communities along side their human partners.  They are active members of law enforcement, yet they are treated as simple items of property by the law if mistreated, injured or killed while performing the tasks required of them.  Police dogs and horses are not tools to be thrown away if damaged – they are living, breathing creatures who form a bond with those around them. 

Several times over the last two decades an amendment to our Criminal Code has been proposed before Parliament, asking for an additional level of protection for our police service animals. Each time, the proposed bill has fallen through the cracks when something ‘more important’ is tabled or when there is an upcoming election. 

Back in 2006 I wrote a letter to my member of parliament outlining the proposed bill.  The federal government sent me response stating there already was a law to protect animals, and as such, nothing else was going to be done.

I’m sorry.  Our laws as they stand are not good enough.  Not when you consider the following cases:

  • February 24, 2006 – Toronto, OntarioPolice Service Horse Brigadier and his rider were run down in a deliberate hit and run.  Reports were the driver of the suspect vehicle intentionally aimed at the horse and rider after being asked to stop by the mounted officer.  Brigadier suffered massive injuries and had to be euthanized on the street.  The police officer suffered non-life threatening injuries.  A suspect was later arrested.
  • January 23, 2006 – Vancouver, British ColumbiaPolice Service Dog Nitro was killed when the auto theft suspect he was apprehending jumped onto a moving train in an effort to get away from the dog.  Nitro was swept under the train and killed instantly.  His handler was not injured.  A suspect was later arrested.
  • June 23, 1998 – Edmonton, AlbertaPolice Service Dog Caesar was killed after being shot by a suicidal man  The man was waving a shotgun and walking towards an occupied elementary school.  When the man threatened police and citizens, Caesar was sent and was able to distract the man, allowing officers to move in.  However, the man shot Caesar at point blank range, killing the dog instantly.  The man was subsequently shot by police.  No citizens or human police officers were injured.
  • September 13, 1996 – Hope, British ColumbiaPolice Service Dog Chip was killed after being stabbed by a suspect wanted for several offences.  Chip and his handler had tracked the suspect through a heavily forested area and located the suspect hiding in the bush.  During the arrest, the suspect stabbed Chip in the neck, and stabbed the officer several times.  Chip died at the scene, trying to protect his handler.  The officer survived his very serious injuries.  A suspect was later arrested.

All of these events had deadly outcomes for the police service animals and there were outpourings of support from the general public after each one of these tragedies.  Police dogs and horses are highly trained and valuable members of the police forces they serve.  They are partners to their human counterparts, and in these above instances saved the lives of their partners. 

The stories that people do not hear about are the ones of how often our Vancouver Police Dogs are struck, punched, and kicked during the course of their duties.  Several times over the last couple of years our police service dogs have protected their handlers and have been injured in the process. 

Police officers and police agencies have come before me to try and amend our current laws, and all have met with an insurmountable task.  I’m prepared to take up this fight once again, and have started reaching out to agencies across the country.  The public support is there.  The knowledge of our current system has increased.  Other officers have already joined me. 

So here’s what I’m asking – send me an e-mail at sandra@behindtheblueline.ca or leave a comment if you would like to help.  

There is no wall too high, or obstacle too tough for sheer will and determination.  If our government has the ability to change laws for others, they have to ability to assist us with this very important task.

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