New Zealand Dog News

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February 22, 2010

Bystander seeks $20,000 after police dog attack

An innocent bystander hospitalised for three nights after being bitten by a police dog chasing a burglar is seeking $20,000 damages.

Cedric Lawrence required two lots of surgery after a police dog named Stone bit him in the calf, causing seven puncture wounds, while chasing some burglars in Manurewa on October 17, 2006.

Mr Lawrence said Stone did not release him even when his handler, Constable Hamish Chapman, called on the dog to do so.

Police dogs are scary! I mean, they are trained to attack, and release when they damn well please themselves. Good on Mr Lawrence because it is HIGH time to question the training methods of the police.

Mr Lawrence is seeking civil damages from the Attorney-General, representing police, on one of two alternative counts, negligence and battery. He says there is a duty of care owed by police to ensure the dog was safe and properly under control.

If the public has this duty of care, any other handler should as well.

He told a hearing before Judge Peter Spiller in Manukau District Court that he was visiting his partner's place in Manurewa and was washing some clothes when the incident happened.

Mr Lawrence said he was walking around the back of the property in a normal fashion and not making any sudden movements.

"I didn't see the dog, it just nailed me from behind."

Mr Lawrence said he tried to pacify the dog and told his stepdaughter, who kicked Stone in an attempt to break the contact, to stop as it was making it worse.

He said Mr Chapman emerged about 30 to 40 seconds later and told the dog to stop but Stone did not and he only released him after Mr Chapman physically struggled with the dog for about 30 seconds.

Under cross-examination he said it could have been 15 to 20 seconds, but that it felt like longer.

He was taken to Middlemore Hospital, where he required two operations to deal with the injuries and had to stay three nights.

Mr Chapman told the hearing that he and Stone were pursuing some burglars and at one stage the dog decided to take off down a bank, forcing him to slip and lose control of the dog.

Shortly afterwards he heard some screams, and he was "incredibly upset" when he saw the dog attacking Mr Lawrence, who he knew was definitely not the offender as he was older than the suspects.

He agreed Stone did not release when commanded to, and that he needed to physically remove the dog from Mr Lawrence.

Mr Chapman said it took him 15 seconds after he heard the scream to reach Mr Lawrence, and 15-20 seconds to free Stone.

He said the only time the dog had bitten before in the six months they had worked together was on his command, and that this action surprised him.

Oh really ?! that's not good enough! That dog should be put down like any other dog

However, the dog bit somebody without being ordered to the next month and he was taken off operational duty for a time after that.

Mr Lawrence's lawyer, Jeremy Sutton, said the dog section of the police training manual "clearly states a police dog should bark when an offender is located, and should only bite on command by its handler".

"Once Stone had bitten Mr Lawrence, he did not release, even on command from his handler. Stone clearly acted outside the manual's guidelines."

Mr Sutton said police had a duty of care to control lethal weapons they can use such as firearms and batons, "and accordingly should be under a duty to control a highly charged weapon such as a dog."

He also said Mr Chapman didn't have him properly under control that day, and that the dog had a propensity to bite, as it showed in the incident the following month.

The lawyer for the Attorney-General, Austin Powell, said there was no evidence prior to the attack on Mr Lawrence that the dog had a propensity to bite. WHAT!

Mr Powell said it was an unfortunate accident.

He said the risk of inadvertent contact between dogs and the public was minimised by good practice and training, "but it cannot be excluded". But it should be...

Mr Powell said it was not accepted there was a legal duty of care either by a dog handler to people in the vicinity while they were at work, or by police as a whole to all people when police dogs were trained and evaluated prior to being put into service.
The hearing is due to conclude tomorrow.

- NZPA

Update on story No concerns' about police dog 23/02/2010

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