WARNING: Some of the details in this story might be considered disturbing.
A Saskatoon police dog has been taken out of service and will be evaluated after a biting incident involving a six-year-old girl.
Around 5 p.m. CT on Saturday, the three-year-old Belgian Malinois was tracking home invasion suspects when it rounded a corner on Avenue M South and bit the girl.
Autumn Clifford needed nine to 12 stiches in her torso, according to her father.
“I don’t want to downplay this,” Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper told reporters Monday.
“This is a serious event, a terrifying event for a little girl and a horrible thing to go through as a family.”
There’s no indication what triggered the dog.
The police K9 training unit has been tasked with assessing the animal, including its history and training, according to the chief of the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS).
“It’s not a pet. This is a working dog,” Cooper said.
The SPS will also file a use of force report with the Saskatchewan Police Commission.
The dog was in a harness and on a leash, releasing from the girl instantly at the handler’s command, according to a police news release.
But a witness said the officer repeatedly told the dog to let go of the girl before it finally released her.
Amanda Pritchard likened the attack to a scene in Cujo – a horror movie based on a Stephen King novel about a rabid St. Bernard.
“I was so berserk, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” Pritchard said.
Saskatoon police dogs are trained locally to provincial standards. Trainers require several years in the service and experience with more than one dog.
Training for a new dog and a new handler takes 16 weeks, with multiple levels of ceritification, according to Supt. Mitch Yuzdepski.
With one dog not in duty, eight dog teams remain in Saskatoon.
“I spoke with the member. He feels horrible about this accident as well,” Yuzdepski said.
“We’re deeply sorry and I’m sure if the member had an opportunity, he would express those same sentiments,” Yuzdepski said.
The length of the internal investigation will be determined in the coming weeks, according to police.
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