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Hammond K-9 officer placed on leave after dog video surfaces

Screen grab from You Tube video shows Hammond Police officer lifting his caine partner up by collar.

Screen grab from You Tube video shows a Hammond Police officer lifting his caine partner up by the collar.

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Updated: May 2, 2014 1:03AM

HAMMOND — A Hammond K-9 officer has been placed on administrative leave following the release of a video in which the officer allegedly appeared to be abusing his dog.

But two men who train police dogs had a different view.

The video, posted Wednesday under the user name “Mark Keepitreal,” shows the officer in the front yard of a residence. He first pulls the dog off the ground by its collar, then swats it with its leash twice while another officer talks to a handcuffed suspect at a police car.

The officer and the dog then walk away from the yard across the street, the dog wagging his tail.

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. said Thursday in a news release that he’s “saddened and shocked” whenever he hears anything about animal abuse.

“When you find out it happened with an employee of yours, it makes it that much more shocking and disturbing,” McDermott said. “Please know that the Hammond [Police Department] does not condone that type of behavior of any of its officers, nor is it tolerated in this administration.”

Bob Anderson, a trainer with K-9 International LLC in West Palm Beach, Fla., cautioned that what looks like abuse to the general public isn’t necessarily when it comes to K-9 officers and their dogs.

“It’s all about positive and negative reinforcement with these animals, and you have to train them with physical praise or discipline,” said Anderson, a K-9 trainer for 35 years who has worked with the Griffith and Hobart Police Department dogs and handlers. “Some dogs are thick-headed and can take harder correction, while others respond immediately.

“Discipline is measured around the sensitivity of the dog, but if they don’t feel it and hear it, they don’t get it,” he said.

And if the dog doesn’t “get it” and continues to bite a suspect without letting go — potentially injuring the suspect badly — that leaves the department open to liability.

“The dogs we get from Europe are very high-drive dogs, and verbal correction only has some effect,” Anderson said. “You have to be able to teach them right from wrong.”

Pat McInerney, who owns Macs K-9 in Crete, Ill., viewed the video and said that he wondered why the officer swatted the dog, but the way he handled it by the collar keeps within the training protocol.

“If that dog was trying to bite, biting is a ‘hanging offense,’ and we will choke them out to get them to come to their senses because that shows the animal who’s in control,” McInerney said. “We don’t have enough of the video, though, to see why the dog was being disciplined.”

McDermott said the canine will be removed from the officer’s control during his leave while the department investigates the incident.

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