CREATED Feb. 15, 2013
FORT MYERS - Tonight, angry viewers demanding action after a Fort Myers police officer smacks his K-9 partner. They want to know why the Chief of police is allowing the dog to stay with his handler and now they're getting answers. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason has been following this from the beginning and is here with the latest.
Chief Doug Baker won't speak with us about this case but after so many viewers contacted him he was forced to respond, now the Captain that oversaw the investigation is set to meet with concerned citizens next week so they can get some answers.
Officer George Sanford joined the Fort Myers police department more than 12 years ago. In 2010 he was awarded officer of the year. But recently he was reprimanded for striking his K-9 partner named ‘Euro’.
Officer George Sanford: "I smacked him, I smacked him with an open hand that is true and I told them that from the very beginning that's exactly what happened."
Mike Mason: "But should you have done that?"
Officer George Sanford "It was a knee jerk reaction"
Since our report, hundreds of angry viewers have demanded to know why Sanford was allowed to keep Euro. When contacting Chief Doug Baker he sent out this email today saying: "There were no signs of physical abuse and no documented history of abuse with Euro." He also urged people not to base their opinions on Fox 4's sensational reporting.
So here are the facts from the department's investigation:
On October 4th, two officers reported seeing George Sanford hit Euro several times on the head.
13 days later, on October 17th, Euro was sent to the department's vet for an examination. The vet determined, "There were no signs of abuse".
The department also had Euro assessed by Cape Coral K-9 expert Dave McConnell. "He declined to give a statement but did advise he had "concerns" for Euro”.
At that point the department had Euro examined again, this time by a K-9 expert in Punta Gorda, Captain James Nichols. He found: "Euro suffers from depression and an abnormal amount of stress." saying...."Euro would hesitate to come out of his kennel and when he did come out, he would turn around and go right back in." Nichols stated, "I have seen this same problem in the past and each time it was from the handler being too hard on a young dog, not abuse, just too strict."
The lead K-9 trainer at the Fort Myers police department was also told to assess Euro. He stated seeing Sanford hit euro twice in the past and now noticed..."Issues with Euro....saying the dog wouldn't even be considered for use as a police dog anymore. It was a completely different dog than the first time I screened him a year and a half ago."
Sanford told us Euro never acted depressed and he has serious concerns with the investigation. We asked Chief Baker to respond to that but today he declined all requests for an interview.