FORT MYERS - All new at ten ... A Fort Myers police officer is reprimanded for punching his K-9 partner. Fellow officers say they confronted him after he struck the dog multiple times in the face. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason digging into this one and finding more disturbing details tonight.
According to the department's head K-9 trainer this has happened with this same officer a couple of times before and now some wonder why he's being allowed to keep that dog.
K-9 police dogs are considered officers at departments across the country. If one is killed in the line of duty that dog is given the same respect during the funeral as if it was any other fallen officer.
Now one K-9 officer with the Fort Myers Police Department is accused of punching his assigned canine during a training session. An internal affairs report states it happened last October at the old post office on Broadway in Fort Myers. Officers placed narcotics inside the building and K-9's had to sniff them out. When they did the dogs were given a toy as a reward.
2 officers reported seeing officer George Sanford: "Strike" his K-9 named “Euro” multiple times in the head ... Euro then cowered down.... and urinated on the floor."
Officers say when they confronted Sanford about hitting his dog he replied: "Don't tell me how to work my f***ing dog." and he told one officer to: "Get the f*** out of the building."
In the report....Sanford later admits: "Euro tried to bite me in the hand and I smacked him in the nose two to three times, okay."
Debbie Burnfield knows her K-9 officers. Last Monday she was honored by the Cape Police Department for giving them “Nate” over a year ago. She says what happened to Euro is unacceptable.
Debbie Burrnfield: "I've never seen a handler mistreat or misuse their dog."
The report goes on to say when interviewing the department's lead K-9 trainer, he said he witnessed seeing Sanford hit his dog twice before. He says one time: Sanford "improperly corrected Euro by hitting him ... I've stopped him before and warned him that the dog isn't going to continue to take that and the dog will come back to bite him. And his (Sanford's) response to me was 'then he'd be a dead dog.'"
Burnfield is outraged.
Debbie Burnfield:" If I would hit that dog I would be going to jail because I violated an officer so why isn't he in jail he assaulted an officer."
The lead K-9 officer also assessed Euro after this incident and found the dog has "issues" and should not be used as a police dog anymore. But Euro has since been returned to officer Sanford - he is now required to seek counseling and more training. We reached out to Chief Doug Baker for comment but were told the department’s policy is to not provide media comments after investigations, but they do stand behind their findings.