A South Carolina police department is investigating why one of its officers attacked a dog and injured its owner Tuesday.
The officer in question is Sarge, a German shepherd.
The Greenville Police Department K-9 officer was at home with his handler, Officer B. Newman, when the incident occurred, according to the police.
As Newman was putting on his uniform and gear before a shift, he let the two-year veteran of the department “out into his secured, fenced backyard to relieve himself.” But the dog was unattended, police said.
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When Newman returned to the backyard, the 4-year-old dog was gone, said police, adding Newman then began searching his neighborhood in his patrol vehicle, requesting help from the Greenville Police Department.
Police reported that Newman found Sarge after a 911 call was made to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office about a dog fight between a German shepherd and a Labrador retriever.
Sarge approached a man with a dog at a nearby dog park, and attacked the black Lab, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Lab suffered a puncture wound to the neck and the owner was injured as he attempted to separate the fighting dogs, police reported. The man’s injury was described as a “large scratch on his arm,” the sheriff’s office said.
While the owner did not receive medical treatment, his dog was taken to a veterinarian with injuries described as non-life threatening by the police.
Police Chief Ken Miller, Capt. Marty Wilkes, and Newman visited with the man and his dog and apologized, according to the police, adding the City of Greenville will pay for all medical or veterinary expenses caused by the attack.
The police could not explain why Sarge escaped the enclosure or attacked the Lab.
“The dog is not aggressive to humans,” police public information officer Donald Porter told The State. “He is a great ambassador to humans, and has never been aggressive toward one, unless ordered to do so by his handler.”
Porter said a departmental investigation is underway, and Greenville County Animal Control is also looking into the incident “to determine compliance with all animal control laws.”
In spite of the investigations, both Sarge and Newman are still on duty.
Some changes have been made, including the addition of an outdoor kennel and no more unsupervised backyard releases, police reported.
Sarge is one of five K-9 officers working for the Greenville Police Department. He and “Rocky, Valor, Saber, and Leo are skilled at drug detection, tracking, building searches, article searches, handler protection, aggression control, and obedience,” according to the police.