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Police dog bites vet during exam

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
A Salisbury police dog bit a local veterinarian recently as the doctor tried to give the dog an X-ray.
Salisbury Police Deputy Chief Steve Whitley confirmed the April 17 incident. He said the dog, named Jagger, bit Dr. Karla Bean, a vet at the Animal Care Center of Salisbury on East Innes Street.
Whitley said Jagger’s handler, Officer Mark Shue, who is also a canine trainer, left the dog at the office and returned when the office staff could not control him.
Jagger, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, was at the animal center to receive shots and other routine care. The doctor placed a muzzle on Jagger which was too big and the dog shook it off, he said.
“I regret that anybody got hurt caring for the animal. We will review our policy to see if there is a better way to do this,” Whitley said.
The Animal Care Center asked the city to pay for the doctor’s medical care, City Risk Manager Richard Kelly said. The city will leave that decision to its insurance carrier.
Kelly said there was some negligence on Bean’s part. The dog apparently is usually seen by another doctor and city officials feel Bean did not have the experience to work with Jagger.
“I’m not saying Dr. Bean was inexperienced. I don’t know her level of experience for a fact. It was her first time with Jagger,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the city has not received any word from its insurance company, but expects to hear something in the coming weeks.
“We are very sensitive to the issue. We hate that it occurred, but we will abide by the insurance company’s decision. I’m sure they will come to a fair determination,” he said.
The insurance company will send the city and the veterinary center a letter detailing its findings.
Dr. Charles Steinman, co-owner of the Animal Care Center, said Bean had to undergo surgery for her injuries.
“She had surgery on her hand to repair a laceration to her palm on the inside and outside. Also, the muscle, tendons and skin had to be put back together,” Steinman said.
The vet suffered no broken bones, he said. But Bean will also need nerve grafts sometime in the near future.
She will be out of work until her physician allows her to return. Bean has been with the animal center for two years.
“We’ve been doing this for 35 years. People get bitten, but this is the most serious one we’ve had,” Steinman said.
He added his office is investigating what procedures will have to change in the future.
Shue, Jagger’s handler, also sustained a puncture wound to his arm trying to help Bean.
Whitley said the Police Department is also conducting an internal investigation into the incident.
Jagger was taken off duty temporarily, as any officer involved in an incident would be, he said.
“We are making sure our canine policy is followed,” Whitley said.
He noted the dog is not like a pet.
“He’s a police work dog and they tend to be somewhat more aggressive by nature. He is not a house pet,” he said.
As part of the internal investigation, police will determine whether the dog’s behavior is “absent of provocation.”
The investigation will be conducted by the N.C. Police Dog Association.
All handlers and canines undergo a series of tests to make certain the dog performs consistently. The dogs are required to pass the tests in order to gain certification. The police department also has weekly on-site training with the dogs, Whitley said.
“Shue is a very competent canine handler,” he said.
Jagger has been a police dog for six years.

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