Rutherford sheriff's K-9 injures two children - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Rutherford sheriff's K-9 injures two children, moved to new handler

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Changes are coming to how the Rutherford County sheriff's office handles its K-9 deputies after two children were hurt and had to go to a hospital for treatment.

According to documents, Ofc. Shawn Applegate's son and his son's friend were at Applegate's home when they took the officer's drug dog, Jett, out of a kennel to put a leash on him and feed him.

The dog then became excited and jumped.

"The dog was playing with the two boys, jumped up on one of the boys and scratched him," said Lisa Marchesoni, spokeswoman for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.

But, according to documents, Jett pounced on the officer's son, and as he attempted to pull him away, he was bitten on the right arm, which required stitches.

Sheriff's officials say it may not be a bite, but rather a claw that penetrated the skin.

"When the second boy reached over, the dog scratched his arm as well. Their injuries were minor," Marchesoni said.

All Rutherford County K-9s live with their handlers, and are just like family pets. Sheriff's officials say Officer Applegate was on leave with pay at the time of the incident, but it's not for disciplinary reasons.

"Due to HIPPA laws, I can't discuss his status," Marchesoni said.

They are looking into whether the dog, which is county property, should have still been in the officer's care, and the county is looking into changing its policy.

"We are updating the care of our K-9s. The policy is in his revision stage," Marchesoni said.

There is an internal investigation underway, but Rutherford County Pet Adoption & Welfare Services, or PAWS, has closed its investigation.

"Their guardians chose not to pursue the bite case any further. We gathered as much information as they would allow," said PAWS director Michael Gregory.

The dog was placed in the care of another sheriff's office handler, and PAWS officials say no special treatment was given to this case.

"Had any other bite case been involved, where the victim asked that we not continue the bite case and signed the release of liability form, the investigation would have stopped, as in this incident," Gregory said.

Jett has been with the sheriff's office for seven years and has helped rid the streets of more than $5 million dollars worth of drugs.

"He is not aggressive, and his sole responsibility is sniffing out drugs," Marchesoni said.

The dog is up to date on his rabies vaccination. The boys' wounds were cleaned, and they were given antibiotics.

A sheriff's captain and sergeant went to PAWS the day after the incident and said there were incorrect statements in the report about the boys being bitten, saying they were instead scratched. Gregory told them he would not ask his animal control officer change or alter his report, but that he would enter a note.

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