HOUSTON (FOX 26) - After canine officers bit their human counterparts in two incidents within a two-day period, the question remains, how rare or common is it for canines to turn on other officers? FOX 26 News visited Harris County Sheriff’s Office head of canine patrols Sgt. Chris Moore to learn more.
At the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, deputies work with their canine partners for hours on end, but officers working patrol? They don’t necessarily spend time at the facility with the dogs, but they do receive an important part of the training -- they learn never to get between the criminal and the canine officer.
“What he (the dog) has been trained to do is key on movement so when (the suspect) moves, the dog will break and go attack him," explains Sgt. Moore who says canine cops put in plenty of time on the practice field before being sent into real life scenarios. "The dog doesn’t recognize a badge or what a person is wearing.”
“A dual purpose dog, which is trained to look for an odor (explosives, narcotics), like my dog is narcotics and patrol," adds Sgt. Moore. "He’s going to be in school 9-to-12 weeks minimum with a handler before he’s ready to go into service.”
There’s a mandatory 16 hours a month of training as well as annual recertification. So with all of that reinforcement, how does a dog trained to take down bad guys end up biting an officer?
"In many cases when officers get bit, they get between the bad guy who’s fleeing and the dog who’s fixated on that target and then they become prey,” explains Moore. In fact, when Sgt. Moore reminds patrol officers of that. "I always have a saying in K9, you’ll do." What does that mean? Well, the dog sees the suspect as one big chew toy and if another chew toy comes along then, “You’ll do,” says Sgt. Moore with a smile and actually, he says more bites happen on the training field than they do in real life.
Sgt. Moore says canine officers don’t typically bite their human counterparts. "They’re a lot fewer and farther between than you would think.” Even if dogs on the force sometimes have accidents with their human partners, Sgt. Moore says they are well worth having.
"Canine can track a suspect using his nose, greater sense of hearing, eyesight and they run faster," adds Sgt. Moore. "This is kind of the equalizer if that makes sense. You can’t out run a 33 mile an hour dog. I don’t care who you are. I don’t think we could do our job without them."
Service dogs cost around $15,000. The nonprofit organization Canines For Cops provides trained complimentary canines to law enforcement agencies.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today, in the sheriff’s office or in the nation, without Canine For Cops. They’ve provided over 130 dogs to various agencies in the United States, one to Paris, France, after the terrorist attacks. They’re instrumental in providing law enforcement the tools they need to keep the citizens safe."
The Houston Police Department K-9 officer Jake, who bit a human officer on Wednesday and was shot after the incident, was released from the hospital on Thursday and will now be retired from service. The HPD K-9 who bit a Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper on Thursday will remain on the force.