Part 3: Was a Police Dog Beaten Bloody in the JoCo Jail?
By Investigative Reporter John Taft
Grants Pass, OR, April 20, 2001 – The Oregon Observer and Strobezone have been investigating an allegation that a police dog named Pico was abused, and or beaten bloody in the Josephine County jail. To find out if the story was factual, I called the sheriff’s department and talked to Lt. Gordon Williams. At the time Williams claimed he hadn’t heard of the April 5th incident, but he was aware that dogs had been taken down into the new jail for training exercises. I also contacted Dennis Roler, Editor of the local Daily Courier newspaper, and Commissioner Harold Haugen. Mr. Roler said he had talked to the sheriff who told him the dog had injured a tooth. These facts provided enough reason to further this investigation.
Bloody Jail Cell
Was there blood from the dog in the jail cell? The official position voiced by Daniel is the dog broke or sustained some type of tooth injury. Now we know the dog left some of his blood in the jail cell. My report is that there was quite a bit of blood smeared around the cell, more than should be expected from an injured tooth. My report says that the cell inmate was given a water spray bottle and a rag to clean up the blood spill. The inmate was reported to be allergic to dogs, and was upset that he was forced to clean up the blood in his cell. Since that time a mop bucket of water was also used to clean the cell.
The sheriff’s department is holding with the tooth story. There may be another explanation for the blood. My inside source claims the dog was failing to obey the commands of the deputy in charge. The deputy was reported to have used a police club to prod the dog and then hit and kicked the dog when he failed to obey commands.
Why Didn’t Lt. Williams Return Taft’s Call?
A very important question this investigation hinges on is was the police dog Pico taken to a veterinarian? I left a voice mail message for Lt. Williams with this question on Friday, April 13th. Mr. Williams chose not to respond to me. This kind of response is typical of the JoCo sheriff’s department. I had left the same question for Commissioner Haugen. Mr. Haugen, who has been very cooperative, did call back Saturday evening and told me he had asked Lt. Williams this question. Williams told him the dog was not taken to the vet. I had also inquired as to who the dog’s vet was. Williams said, "Off the top of my head I think it’s _____." Williams’ answer appears to be correct. My observation is that the Daniel’s JoCo sheriff’s department is uncooperative and it wants to keep information from reaching the public.
Was Pico Put at Risk?
The new jail has had a few sewage overflows since it was opened. Sanitary conditions in a jail are always a concern of the employees. Bacteria and Viruses can be found on an apparently clean home kitchen counter. How many more can be found in the environment of a jail? Any type of open injury that allows blood to flow will also allow pathogens into an animal or human body.
Expert Questioned on Professional Dog Handling
I asked renowned dog trainer Edward Snook and a former writer for Dog World if Pico should have been taken to a vet. He responded with one word, "Absolutely. " Mr. Snook has trained hundred of attack and self-protection dogs. He said, "Never once using my training methods was there a need to cause an injury to a dog. I’ve never had a dog bleed. It’s a bad dog handler that would injure a dog during training. There is literally no need for that." Common sense would dictate that the dog should have gone to a vet. Any kind of injury that would cause an open wound and allow blood to flow will put any dog at risk of an infection or disease.
Here are the Facts
We know Pico was taken into the county jail. We know there was blood in the cell, from the dog because of the broken tooth story. This wasn’t denied. According to the information that Lt. Williams gave to Commissioner Haugen, we now know that Pico didn’t go to the vet. We know that a dog trainer indicated that under the described conditions Pico should have gone to a vet. We know these are very valuable dogs costing thousands of dollars to purchase and train. The Elks are reported to have donated $5,000 for the purchase and training of a dog. We know a bleeding wound of any kind could easily put Pico at risk of bacterial infection or a disease. Why wasn’t this expensive dog professionally taken care of? Why wasn’t Pico taken to the vet?
A Conclusion from Deductive Reasoning
Some conclusions can be drawn from the evidence presented. The injury could have been minor. But the necessity of supplying a water spray bottle and rag to clean up and then using a mop later would tend to dispel this theory. The public’s perception is that the deputies love those dogs and take great care of them. Perhaps the K-9 dog trainer’s public image doesn’t match how the dogs are really treated when they are being trained. Regardless, If Pico were cared for wouldn’t he have been taken to the vet? Last we have to consider the unthinkable. And this is the theory that the dog was actually abused and beaten because he didn’t obey the trainer’s commands. Perhaps the deputy lost his temper. Or could it be that abuse by prodding a police dog with a club, hitting and kicking is a normal training procedure used by some deputies in Josephine County?
Unfortunately this last conclusion appears to carry the most credibility. Injuries to Pico would have shown up during an examination by a vet. Explaining the cause of such an injury would be embarrassing to the entire sheriff’s department. Deputies are supposed to be the good guys that investigate and cite others for animal abuse in Josephine County. For one deputy to investigate and cite a K-9 deputy for animal abuse would make newspaper headlines and raise community eyebrows. It’s doubtful the department would ever let such a story out.
Are There Reasons to Conceal a Dog Beating?
It has been said that attitude is everything. A visitor to the Josephine County Jail was recently told, "What goes on behind these walls is none of the public’s business." The allegations involving Pico would tend to confirm this statement. A police dog beating in the jail would be politically embarrassing to Daniel. It would also show the unprofessional attitude of deputies in the JoCo sheriff’s department Sheriff Daniel is attempting to obtain more money for the sheriff’s department budget. He is asking for another $850,000 when he already has a budget of almost $9 million for next year. This type of bad exposure could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue and affect his public image. If the dog was beaten and had bruises and wounds, these would be very powerful reason not to take the dog to the vet. An offer to take the dog to the vet now would be most likely a worthless gesture as the alleged beating and bloodletting took place on April 5. A documented trip to the vet could have resolved this entire issue.
Sheriff is Accountable
Unless the sheriff’s department can supply some new compelling evidence that Pico wasn’t beaten or abused during this training exercise then the fact remains this issue is still wide open and isn’t going away. The sheriff’s department under Dave Daniel is accountable for its actions whether they are officially investigated or not.