February 15, 1996 in Nation/World

Back To Take A Bite Out Of Crime Police Dog With A Record Returns To Force; Mangan Promises New Training, New Rules

Gita Sitaramiah Staff writer
 

A Spokane police dog with a checkered past - attacks on three people in less than a year - is back on duty.

Spike, a 110-pound German shepherd, will be kept on a leash more often to prevent another incident, Police Chief Terry Mangan said Wednesday.

Under new rules spurred by the attacks, the department’s six police dogs may run free in public only while tracking suspects or conducting searches.

Mangan also promised additional training aimed at teaching its dogs to ignore distractions while on duty.

Despite the changes, the mother of a man who was the victim of an unprovoked attack by Spike, says the dog shouldn’t be on the streets.

“Once it bites, I don’t think they can train it to make it change,” said Pat Smith. “It could bite someone else.”

Spike, a four-year police veteran, was removed from duty after attacking Greg Smith and Jeff Kendall as they walked down a street singing a Beatles song about 2 a.m. on Jan. 12.

The same dog also mauled Jerry Hurtt outside Playfair Race Track on May 4.

Mangan doesn’t believe Smith and Kendall provoked the January attack, but he is skeptical of Hurtt’s claim that he did nothing to incite Spike.

“The fact is he’s a drunken hobo,” the chief said. “We’re not sure if the dog attacked the guy or the guy attacked the dog.”

Hurtt could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In an interview last May, he denied provoking Spike. The 59-year-old Seattle man said he was in town looking for work as a horse groomer.

“I thought he was going to kill me,” Hurtt said of the attack. “Beautiful dog. But his eyes were crazy.”

Spike went through a retraining program last summer after sinking his teeth into Hurtt’s arm.

In the May incident, the dog - exercising with a handler - ran through some trees near the race track and came into contact with Hurtt.

“We do know the dog didn’t bother him at all the first couple of times he went by. Something changed,” Mangan said Wednesday.

Hurtt said he was sitting on a bucket, smoking a cigarette when he heard a sound and turned to see the dog lunging at him.

He said he tried to fend off Spike by stabbing the dog with a pair of scissors.

Hurtt’s wounded arm required skin grafts. Police paid those bills and agreed to also pay Greg Smith’s medical expenses. No specific cost figures were available.

Smith declined comment Wednesday, saying he is planning to take legal action against the city.

He was bitten on his right leg as he walked home with his friend, Kendall, from Mootsy’s, a downtown bar.

The dog bit Smith, then tried to bite Kendall through his overcoat before Officer Kevin King got the animal under control.

Just before the attack, King was exercising Spike in the parking lot at the Spokane County Health District, 1101 W. College.

Police suspect Spike, who wasn’t on a leash, attacked because the men’s singing - about 70 yards away - agitated him. One of the men also didn’t immediately stand still as King ordered, according to police.

Police dogs are exempt from the state’s dangerous dog law, which provides additional requirements for dogs declared dangerous after inflicting serious injury on a person without provocation.

Those requirements include liability insurance totaling at least $50,000 and an enclosure for the dog with signs warning of a dangerous dog.

Dangerous dogs whose owners fail to meet the requirements may be put to sleep.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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