Gardening 87-year-old mistakenly attacked by VPD police dog
The Vancouver Police Department has apologized to an 87-year-old woman and her family after one of its police dogs mistakenly attacked the senior while she was gardening.
Const. Jason Doucette said the dog was tracking a car theft suspect that had fled on foot Sunday afternoon in the area around Knight Street and East 19th Avenue.
The canine was under control of a handler, but somehow when it was tracking down the block the dog ended up in the woman's yard and around the back of the home.
"Unfortunately, the woman was apprehended in error as she stood with her son at the back of the residence," Doucette said in a statement.
The senior was taken to hospital and later released, though neighbour Robert Piddocke says the entire family is "extremely traumatized."
“She was quite badly bitten in her thigh,” said Piddocke. “And worse than that she had fallen over and hit her head from the force of the dog and possibly had a bad cut or concussion. At 87 you're not too strong to take an attack like that.”
The Independent Investigations Office says it’s aware of the incident, but that they are not investigating because there is no “serious harm.”
The VPD said this type of incident is "very rare," and it is now reviewing the circumstances around what it is calling an "unfortunate incident."
"We are very sorry that an innocent person was injured," said Const. Doucette.
"Officers from the VPD, including a Deputy Chief, have met with the victim and her family to apologize and offer additional support. Any potential training issues will be identified and remedied."
Douglas King with Pivot Legal Society calls the incident shocking, and entirely preventable.
“In our opinion an 87-year-old woman should never be bitten,” said King. “It sure sounds like it’s another case of a handler losing control of the dog.”
Pivot Legal Society says the Vancouver Police Department have had one of the highest rates of accidental or wrongful police dog bites in the country.
The group says the VPD’s K9 unit uses a method called “bite and hold.” They say another training method called “bark and hold” is statistically more effective in cutting down on the amount of people bitten by police dogs. The RCMP also uses the “bite and hold” method.
"We continue to ask the Vancouver Police Department why it does not employ the bark and hold method of training,” said King. “This seems like another example of where, potentially, this woman could have been spared her injuries.”
King hopes this case could potentially bring change.
“Enough is enough,” said King. “An 87-year-old woman being mauled by a police dog is completely unacceptable. It’s time for the Vancouver Police Department to own up to their mistakes and to start making meaningful reforms so this doesn’t happen again.”
Robert Piddocke agrees change is needed.
“Some changes in the procedures and training in how we use dogs to look for criminals is probably a good thing,” Piddocke said. “It could have just as easily come into our yard and bit one of my kids.”
CTV reached out to the family of the woman who was bitten, but they declined to comment.
Piddocke says the incident has been very difficult for the family, and they're having a hard time sleeping.
"She's a frail lady," he said of his neighbour. “But she just loves to work in her garden and now she's afraid to go outside.”