A Saskatoon police dog that was removed from duty after it bit a six-year-old girl while it was tracking suspects is back on the job.
Autumn Clifford was in her yard last June when a police dog going after suspects in a home invasion came around a corner ahead of its handler and latched onto her.
She required several stitches on her abdomen.
The girl’s mother, Leslie Welder has filed a lawsuit against the force. Welder said the incident was traumatic for her daughter who is still dealing with the mental effects.
“She tries to act like a normal little girl, but when we go out to see other dogs or she hears other dogs, right away she gets apprehensive and scared,” Welder said.
“She’s got the markings and they’re nasty. I can’t even look at them without wanting to cry.”
Welder said Autumn has also developed a fear of the dark and has trouble sleeping alone.
The Saskatoon Police Service says its investigation, which was aided by an outside agency, found the dog and its handler met all provincial standards.
The review did suggest some modifications in how police dogs are deployed when on assignment.
Deputy Chief Mitch Yuzdepski says the police service has made some changes which have become part of standardized training for all officers in the canine unit.
He says handlers are being told they need to consider a number of things when their dogs are tracking in a real situation or in a training environment: the time of day, the environment the team is working in and the need to keep an eye on a police dog at all times.
“That may mean, if necessary, when navigating tight spaces or blind corners, shortening the length of the leash,” Yuzdepski said Tuesday.
He said the police service specifically asked the outside agency to examine not only what happened but also to recommend “what we could incorporate in order to eliminate or reduce the risk of this ever happening again.”
The handler was not disciplined. The dog was taken off duty, but Yuzdepski said it returned to work Tuesday.
Welder said the outcome has left her feeling angry, adding her daughter deserves justice.
“I would love for this to be done with so we can move on … so that we can try to make things right for her,” she said.
“She’s always got to hear about it and it keeps setting her back.”
-With files from Brent Bosker and the Canadian Press.