Victim of unprovoked dog bite sues Mounties
A B.C. man who was mistaken for a criminal and mauled by a police dog sued the RCMP for damages Friday, as another victim came forward demanding changes to police dog training.
Bill Evanow, a Maple Ridge caterer, says he still can’t walk properly after the police dog removed a chunk of his hamstring. Evanow claims the RCMP was negligent in its deployment and training of the dog.
“With the current deployment and training, we think this could happen to anybody,” said Evanow’s lawyer Doug King of the Pivot Legal Society. “He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
In March 2011 Evanow chased after a car thief on his property. The Good Samaritan told CTV News he was trying to help police – but he ended up bitten instead.
The lawsuit identifies the dog handler as Const. Bruce Ternan. The RCMP has not yet responded to the lawsuit, and declined to comment on the case Friday.
Evanow is one of eight innocent people bitten in a two-year period, according to a review by CTV News.
Both RCMP dogs and VPD dogs are trained with a “bite and hold” philosophy, which means every time they are released, they bite.
A CTV News review of records shows that dogs in the RCMP bite five times more often, and the VPD dogs bite ten times more often, than forces that train their dogs to be less aggressive.
The less aggressive method is known as “bark and hold,” practiced by police in Saanich, New Westminster, and Delta.
“When you train dogs to bite all the time, someone is going to get bitten. And by percentage sometimes it’s going to be the wrong person,” said King.
Another dog bite victim, Michelle Papineau, came forward Friday. She also supports going to the “bark and hold” way of training.
In August 5, 2010, she was drinking a beer in the Campbell River estuary. She was reprimanded by an officer whose dog was off-leash, bathing in the water. The dog, named Rex, bounded up and bit her in the bicep.
“I just froze. I didn’t know what to do,” she recalled. “His teeth were bared and he was staring at me straight in the face and going for my face.”
The dog’s teeth left puncture wounds. The officer, Const. Kurtis England, was very apologetic, she said, and offered to take her to the hospital.
Papineau complained to the RCMP, and this week Mounties paid her an undisclosed sum.
“We’ve formally apologized to Papineau, because all police service dog handlers must have control over their dogs at all times, and Const. England did not have control,” Campbell River Const. Poppy Hallam said.
CTV News learned that Rex was responsible for biting another innocent person a few months later, at a November 2010 house party. In that case, someone opened a ground floor apartment window and stuck their arm out and the dog grabbed on.
The dog perceived that person as a threat to the officer, Hallam said.
Neither the dog nor the handler were disciplined after the attacks, but Poppy Hallam says both train together repeatedly and have the force’s trust they are no danger.
Rex was profiled in a Campbell River newspaper in January and the RCMP records show the dog bit at least 15 criminals over two years.