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Police dog destroyed for biting off teenager’s earlobe

A POLICE dog which bit off part of a teenager’s ear has been destroyed by Sussex police, having been deemed to be ‘unsuitable’ for police service. An eleventh-hour campaign was launched to save police dog Bruce from death row following the incident two weeks ago.

The German shepherd was due to be destroyed after biting the 14 year-old while officers were breaking up a brawl. But friends and neighbours of dog handler PC Pete Tattum and his family pleaded for a stay of execution. One woman, who lives nearby pc Tattum in Seaford, said: “Bruce was only doing his job. They could retire him - surely they don’t have to kill him.”

Neighbour Sylvia Hedges said PC Tattum had offered to leave the police dog unit so he could keep Bruce. She said: “He’s prepared to sacrifice his career for the life of his dog. “He’s being allowed to see Bruce to say goodbye before they kill him. Pete’s ten-year-old daughter had to leave their home on Monday when the news was broken. They knew she would be upset. She and Pete’s wife were in floods of tears when they heard.

“Pete’s 13-year-old son phoned the police dog manager and pleaded with him to save Bruce.” Mrs Hedges, an intensive care nurse, said: “The whole community here is outraged at what we think is an unfair and cruel decision. I am not a dog lover but I am happy to be near Bruce with my two children. Bruce has visited schools and has never been a problem.

“When police officers make errors they are disciplined but it seems dogs who make mistakes pay with their lives.” However, the campaigners have were rejected. Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Yeo said the decision was regrettable. “At the end of the day, a police dog is not trained to do what it did,” he said.

“A police dog is not a pet, it is a piece of equipment. If we had a car that did not work or had faulty brakes then we would get rid of it. We have to be as bloody-minded as that for the sake of public safety.”

Bruce, who was five, was put into kennels immediately after the attack to be assessed. A force spokeswoman said: “The dog was checked by a nationally-accredited police dog training instructor and did not pass.

“Therefore, regrettably, due to public safety, which must be paramount, the dog will be humanely euthanased by a veterinary surgeon.”

She said police dogs which fail cannot be rehomed. If it bit again, Sussex Police could be liable for legal action because it had been trained by the force. It costs £6,000 to train a police dog and it is worth £35,000 during its working life of eight years.

The teenage boy - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was injured in the early hours of Saturday April 13th. when a fight broke out between a crowd of 20, some armed with bottles and knives, in Morley Street, Brighton.

Police said the teenager was one of two people pursued.

They were ordered to stop by a dog handler, who followed them to an unlit part of the street. A police dog handler ordered both boys to stop. One did so, and was arrested, but the second youth continued - and was pursued by the dog and bitten. Officers at the scene found the section of the boy’s ear on the pavement and placed it in cool water. The youth was then taken by police car to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead for the operation, which doctors said was successful.

Police were later able to question him.

Outraged

Stacey McSpirit, who runs the Paws Animal Sanctuary in Findon, was outraged at the decision to put Bruce down. She said: “I can’t understand it. The dog was only doing its job.

It was probably going for the arm as trained to do and missed and caught the ear.” She added: “Mike Tyson bit someone’s ear off and they didn’t put him down.”

Bruce bit a police officer in 1999, but was not deemed to be dangerous.
Steve Curry, now a sergeant, was grabbed in the thigh by the dog, leaving him with a puncture wound.

He was one of three people bitten as officers followed two car thieves seen in a stolen car. The vehicle crashed into another car in Freshfield Way, Brighton, injuring a woman passenger who chased the two thieves.

Bruce was giving chase and the woman came into the dog’s line of sight and was bitten on her wrist, causing a minor injury.

Mr Curry, who was also bitten, said at the time: “I was in plain clothes and running. I should have stopped. Bruce mistook me for a suspect and was doing his job. “I’m certainly not cross with him. Both dogs and their handlers were brilliant.”

One suspect was bitten twice in the leg after trying to kick Bruce’s colleague, Ben, another German shepherd. The suspect was arrested but his accomplice escaped.

Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker added his voice to calls for a reprieve for Bruce. He said: “It seems drastic bearing in mind also be calling force headquarters. The Sussex Police call handling centre has received a number of calls from members of the public complaining and urging the force to save the dog.

Sadly, the Assistant Chief Constable ordered that Bruce should be enthanased and this was carried out last week.

A spokesman for Sussex Police told OUR DOGS: “Every alternative option was considered, but ultimately it was felt that Bruce was, unfortunately, a liability. It is a sad situation, but public safety has to be considered as a priority.”

The teenage boy was due to appear before Brighton magistrates on Monday of this week.