Police dogs “will do anything for their handler”, the head of the police union has said after a dog was shot near Dargaville in Northland. The dog, who has not been identified to the media by police, was allegedly shot by a man who was wanted on firearms and cannabis charges.
Police then shot the man three times. Both he and the dog were airlifted to Auckland for medical treatment and were in stable condition on Tuesday afternoon. Police Association president Chris Cahill said police dogs were a key part of the team and were treated, to a degree, as another officer.
He said it affected everyone in the police force when a dog was injured or killed.
“They’re just like one of us.” They were working dogs and not pets, but the bond they shared with their handlers was one of “incredible love”, Cahill said.
They put their lives at risk on a daily basis and were at the “front end of danger”, he said.
“Unfortunately due to the nature of their role, they will be put into dangerous situations.
“They will do anything for their handler. They’re incredibly loyal.”
A total of 24 police dogs have died in the line of duty since 1972, four in the 2000s alone. The most recent was Gazza, who was shot dead during an armed incident in Porirua in 2016. The previous year, he had survived being strangled by a burglar.
Gazza, 4, was laid to rest in a private funeral, wrapped in a New Zealand flag. In 2010, Christchurch police dog Gage was killed when he jumped in front of a bullet intended for his handler.
In 2013, he was posthumously awarded the PDSA Gold Medal, which honors outstanding animal bravery or exceptional devotion to duty. Three-year-old police dog Enzo died in 2009 after being drowned by Tairyn Murphy, a labourer who had been wanted for family violence charges.
Murphy was convicted of killing a police dog without lawful excuse. Cahill said service is always held when a police dog dies. Its size depends on the wishes of the handler.
Someone who injures or kills a police dog can face two years in prison or a maximum fine of $15,000. In a tale of survival, Northland police dog Caesar was stabbed twice in the head while trying to detain a man in December 2018.
However, he made a full recovery and went on to win a prestigious national award with his handler, Constable Josh Van Der Kwaak. Adam Tipene, 32, was sentenced to five years and three months in jail for aggravated burglary and stabbing Caesar.
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