Update 2: On Edgerton, Wisconsin’s Police Dog (Return to Service?)

Update: This meeting may be moved to the Edgerton Library.

I’ve written before about a police dog in Edgerton, Wisconsin that bit a police officer, and attacked a city worker, but was removed from service by a unamoious vote of the Edgerton City Council. (The council overrode the unsound decision of the Public Safety [sic] Commission to keep the dog on duty.) For my earlier posts, see On Edgerton, Wisconsin’s Police Dog and Update: On Edgerton, Wisconsin’s Police Dog (Goodbye to the Biter)

It may not be goodbye just yet, as Edgerton alderman Ken Westby has requested reconsideration of the council vote to send the dog back. See, Edgerton might keep police dog after all.

The alderman’s remarks as published in the Gazette read not just as a parody, but worse than parody. Readers know well that I am sometimes critical of elected officials and bureaucrats.

I surely do not feel this way about most people. On the contrary, libertarians believe deeply and truly in the ability of ordinary people to decide for themselves, and in doing so, to make better decisions than self-annointed elites in government ever could. It is because libertarians are convinced of the ability of ordinary people, just like us, that we are often critical of those who interfere with the liberty and prosperity of capable, common people.

The only thing common among common people is how uncommonly capable and talented they are. They need no guidance of overbearing government.

Yet, critical as I have sometimes been, I cannot recall a public official who seemed more out of his depth than the one quoted in the Gazette.

The Dog as Martyr. This matter is about sending back a dog that twice bit without provocation or command, thereby putting police officers and citizens at risk. Remarkably — and here that’s an understatement — Edgerton’s alderman has this to say about a German Hhepherd-as-matryr:

For that, Westby blames the local news media and outraged citizens, who he said ravaged the dog’s image in print and at public meetings May 14 and May 17.

“Those nights, everybody was on a witch hunt, and the witch’s name happened to be Ash. The council got their 30 pieces of silver to hang the dog. We acted too harshly, in my mind,” Westby said.

It’s hard to sort all this out — the mixing of references, the implication that the community betrayed the dog as Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ, the reference to a witch hunt — it would be insulting if it weren’t so embarrassing, so foolish. The only thing worse than saying these things would be to believe they made any sense. It’s just an odd jumble.

Dog or Handler? Who’s to Blame? No one contends that when the dog bit a police officer, it was that officer’s fault. No one contends that when the dog attacked an office worker, it was the worker’s fault. Blame the dog, blame the handler, yet there’s still a problem.

It’s actually worse if the problem lies with the handler, as it was the Edgerton Chief of Police who handled the dog when it bit the officer worker. Edgerton would be far better off if the dog’s temperamental nature were to blame. If it’s not the dog, and the attacks were unprovoked, then it’s the handler’s fault. (“[Kennel owner] Filo said handler error is common, particularly with new handlers such as Klubertanz. “The handler’s got to learn not to have the dog running around free. He should have at least the minimum had his (office) door closed,” he said.)

The dog is neither a pet, show dog, or trophy: those lacking the judgment to see as much shouldn’t handle the dog.

Biting Dog or Human Victims? The question is what to do when a police dog keeps biting people. keeping the dog in service is probably the worst choice, as either dog or handler is unsuited to his role.

An Evaluation of the Dog. One reads that

This week, Robert Wierenga, a sheriff’s deputy and a dog handler for the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office, paid a visit to Ash at Kenlyn Kennels, making an independent evaluation of the dog?s training and demeanor, officials said.

The visit was neither solicited nor authorized by the city, [City Administrator] Flanigan said.

“I wouldn’t say it was approved. I would say it was disapproved,” she said.

Whether or not Wierenga had city clearance to work with Ash, Flanigan said Wierenga gave the city an evaluation of the dog.

“He said he thinks it’s a very nice dog and an even-tempered dog,” Flanigan said.

A freelance evaluation — without the handler — one of which the city administration diaspproved — is telling. Someone wants his way, and will try to do what he can to get it. By the way, would the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department certify the dog for service in that department, based on this evaluation of one of its handlers? Will the kennel where the dog was kept stand by the conditions of the evaluation that it, apparently, permitted on its premises?

Finally, one has this reassurance from Edgerton’s alderman and champion of the biting dog:

I’ve got a feeling you could walk that dog right up to you without a muzzle, and it wouldn’t do nothing,” Westby said.

The reconsidertion motion is scheduled for council consideration tonight, Tuesday, June 1st at the Edgerton City Hall, at 6 p.m.

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