Braintree Police Department
Two police dogs with the Braintree police department have been put down and a third taken out of service after the dogs attacked two officers and a child in separate incidents, the department said Monday.
The three attacks prompted the town’s police chief to shut down the patrol dog unit and order a review of its operations. For now, Braintree will be keeping only their fourth police dog to help detect illegal drugs.
“There is a certain risk when deploying canines, not only to our officers, but to our citizens as well. The inherent danger associated with their deployment far outweighs the benefit and as such I have made a decision to end their deployment,” said Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier.
The problems with the Braintree dogs began more than a year ago when an officer was riding in his cruiser with his dog, named Dargo, in the backseat.
The dog became excited when he saw another animal outside the car, according to Detective Brian Cohoon, President of the Braintree Police Officers Association. When the officer went to close the sliding door between the front seat and the kennel in the back so the dog wouldn’t escape, the dog bit the officer in the hand, according to Cohoon, whose brother is on the canine unit.
Dargo had been with the officer for over four years. The unexpected aggression prompted the department to conduct a medical review of the dog, and police soon discovered that Dargo had a genetic disorder.
“[The officer] made the decision to put the dog down,” Cohoon said. “That never happened before and we had had him in training, but he never would have done that if he was normal.”
The officer got a second dog, named Yento , soon thereafter. According to Cohoon, the dog had not yet been trained when another biting incident occured.
The dog was at home with the officer’s wife and son, who is approximately five-years-old, Cohoon and chief Frazier said in separate interviews, when it was taken out to go to the bathroom.
The toddler startled the dog, and it bit the toddler. The child required stitches, though Cohoon said it wasn’t serious.
“The Weymouth police were called and the arriving officers choked the dog to get it off their son. The dog died as a result of the officers’ actions,’’ Frazier said by email Monday night. “Short of shooting the animal I believe this was the only course of action the officers could take to save (the officer’s) son.’’
The same officer received a third police dog after the incident, and the department didn’t have any additional issues until April 28, when another officer was attacked by another dog.
According to a news release from the department, the third biting incident occurred when Officer Kristine Lydon responded to a call to help find two missing children. Officer William Cushing, Jr. brought along his police dog, Kitt, to help in the search.
Officers found the missing children and were about to leave the scene when Kitt climbed out of an open window of a police cruiser and attacked Lydon.
Lydon suffered a serious leg injury and was transported to Boston Medical Center, police said. She underwent surgery and was later released from the hospital.
“Her recovery is going to be long, arduous, and challenging…Kristine is a strong individual and will get through this, [though] she faces additional surgery down the road,” Frazier said in a release.
Cohoon said an infection from the incident has complicated Lydon’s recovery.
Although she is getting better, she isn’t expected to return to work for a couple of months.
The three incidents prompted Frazier to shut down the department’s patrol dog unit entirely. The unit will be reviewed before deciding if any police dogs -- or “canine units” in police jargon – should return to work.
Frazier said the step was necessary for public safety and the future financial health of the town.
“If this was a member of the general public, the town could be sued,” Frazier said. “I trust in the future that a thorough independent review of the canine program will be conducted before any decision is made to reinstate the program.”
Cohoon, who started the canine program in 1991, said it’s unfair to disband the police dog department because of the episodes.
“It’s a successful program, a good program, and it’s an unfortunate accident and it comes down to handler error,” Cohoon said.
Town officials did not respond to requests for comment.