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Video of an unnamed Vacaville, California police officer repeatedly punching his canine partner in the head was posted to social media on Tuesday, prompting outrage from animal advocates and action from the Vacaville Police Department.
Meanwhile, Vacaville Police are defending the officer’s actions.
Video posted to Facebook showed an officer straddling his K9 partner, holding him down to the ground and punching him repeatedly in the head and face. Vacaville Police have not released the name of the officer, but he is said to be in training to become a K9 handler.
Eyewitness, Roberto Palomino, videoed the incident after he heard the dog crying in pain in the area of Vaca Valley Parkway. Palomino said it appeared the officer had been looking around as if trying to sense if anyone was watching while he punched the dog repeatedly in the face.
“I can still hear the dog crying,” Palomino told KOVR. “There was an officer beating a dog really bad. It was closed-fist punching in the face to a dog. He punched the dog several times before I was able to get it on camera.”
Police Capt. Matt Lydon said the video was taken out of context. He explained that the dog had performed well in narcotics detection training and was rewarded with a toy. When the unnamed officer tried to take the toy back, Capt. Lydon said the dog became aggressive.
“The K-9 lunged in an attempt to bite the handler, and that’s when swift action needs to take place to let the dog know the handler is in charge. That is a position of dominance that you see in the video when the officer straddles the dog,” Lydon said.
When asked if physical punishment is part of the training process, Lydon said, “there are certain scenarios where strikes to the dog can be appropriate.”
Vacaville Police later responded to backlash against the officer’s behavior on Facebook:
…We understand how disturbing the video appears to many who view it and the range of emotions it creates. What the video doesn’t show is the moments prior, when the canine became aggressive towards his handler. We want to assure the public this incident is being evaluated in its entirety and will be investigated appropriately.
The response continues, in part:
Although our canines appear to be pets, just like the ones we all have at home; they are quite different in many ways. If left unguided by a handler, the decisions they make could lead to the injury of the dog, an officer or an innocent community member. All training programs are not alike and need to be tailored to the needs of the specific dog and handler. This is generally achieved by a careful balance of physical discipline and reward based training. As with any training program, we are constantly evaluating our policies and procedures for needed improvement. We are still collecting all the information as it pertains to this incident for the purposes of that evaluation.
In an update, the Vacaville Police Department announced that the canine was removed from the officer’s care pending an investigation into the incident. They assured the public that the dog was examined by a veterinarian and found to have no signs of injury or distress from the beating.
At this time, the officer seen in the video is not facing any disciplinary action.
As proponents of science-based, positive training, The Dogington Post absolutely does NOT condone physical punishment as a method of training. It is our assertion that the officer in training be cited for animal cruelty, just as any pet owner caught abusing their dog in the same manner would be.
If you share our concerns, you may express them to the Vacaville Police Department at (707) 449-5200 or to Captain Matt Lydon at (707) 449-5236.