CREATED Mar. 22, 2013
FORT MYERS - More than a month after a Fox 4 investigation raised questions about possible abuse of a K-9 officer....the Fort Myers City Manager releases his report into the incident. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason is here now with the latest.
The City Manager reviewed the police investigation into this incident and he has now issued this 38 page report. It answers some of the questions raised by concerned viewers but many are upset because this K-9 officer will be allowed to stay with the same handler that hit him.
Officer George Sanford was investigated after 2 officers reported seeing him strike his K-9 partner, "Euro", last October, something Sanford openly admitted.
Officer George Sanford: "Yes, I did smack Euro in the nose twice, two or three times."
During the investigation, other officers also reported seeing Sanford strike Euro in the past. As a result, Sanford was ordered to undergo counseling but he was still allowed to keep Euro. And when we interviewed Sanford last month he told us what he did was minor compared to how other handlers treat their dogs.
Officer George Sanford: "Because the other handlers have done things to their dogs that are a lot worse that what I've done to him, you know, just smack him in the nose."
And that statement sparked outrage with the national animal rights group, PETA and hundreds of angry viewers. They demanded city officials do more to hold Sanford accountable. Soon after, police Chief Doug Baker launched an investigation into the entire K-9 unit. Last month we tried to speak with City Manager Billy Mitchell but he refused.
Mike Mason: "Mr. Mitchell, can we talk to you about the K-9 administrative review, please?"
Public pressure has since forced Mitchell to review the police investigation. Today he issued his findings in a 38 page report. Essentially, Mitchell supports the department's findings that Euro was not abused. Mitchell cites the fact Euro was evaluated by Fort Myers vet, Dr. Frank Dupree of The Small Animal Hospital who, "determined the K-9 was a healthy animal who showed no signs of abuse."
Animal rights advocates question how objective Dupree is since he's paid to care for all of the police department's K-9's and also happens to be the vet Sanford uses for his personal pets.
In the report, Chief Baker admits: "the investigation (into the K-9 unit) was opened as a result of allegations made by officer Sanford during his interview with Fox 4 news." That investigation is ongoing but Mitchell's report indicates changes have already been made and: "policy has been modified to increase the supervision and monitoring of the K-9 handlers....the homes or facilities of all canine handlers will also be inspected on, at least, an annual basis." and "the K-9 unit will receive additional outside training" from a consultant who will help identify any areas of concern.
No word on when the investigation into the K-9 unit will be finished. Mitchell believes what officer Sanford did to Euro is an isolated incident but says he will monitor Sanford's evaluations and training reports just in case.