SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The fallout over an online blogger's story accusing the Salisbury Police Chief of neglecting a K-9 continues, even after the chief and city leaders emphatically denied the allegation.
An anonymous letter being spread through social media alleges that the Salisbury Police Department is mistreating an "aged out" police dog by leaving the dog in a small kennel behind the department, not giving the dog proper exercise, and allowing the dog to suffer from physical neglect.
The letter implores readers to contact city leaders and animal activists on behalf of "Jack," a Belgian Malinois that was formerly handled by a Salisbury police officer who now works at the Rowan Sheriff's Office.
That deputy has told the sheriff that he would not comment about the situation.
Reached on Monday afternoon, Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins denied that the dog was neglected and said that the blog post contains a number of inaccuracies.
Collins said that the dog has been kept in the kennel since the officer left, but pointed out that the kennel is of the same size and specifications as the kennel at the home of the former handler. Collins also said that contrary to the report that the dog is "aged out," Jack is being assigned to another handler within the department.
On Tuesday night Chief Collins, Lt. Andy Efird, and Jack met with WBTV and another Charlotte television station in a field off Airport Road. Efird played with the dog, who appeared healthy, happy, and very energetic.
Efird told WBTV that the allegations were false and that he routinely exercised Jack when Jack was in the kennel at the police department. Efird said he didn't understand what was behind the blog post, but repeated that Jack was not neglected.
"He seems to be in fine health, he seems to be happy, I've dealt with him daily since the officer resigned," Efird told WBTV. "I haven't had any issues with him. He seems like your ordinary dog."
Jack is listed as being 8 years old and has been working for six years. Chief Collins says the average work career for such is dog is 10 years. The National Police Dog Foundation states that "depending on the health status, it (retirement age) is normally about 10 years of age."
The Foundation also states that when a dog's handler gets out of the program before the dog is ready to retire, "the dog might be retrained with a new handler, or given to its original handler if age and circumstances permit."
The dog is also "cared for every day," according to Collins, who is himself an owner of two dogs. The chief said that the cage was cleaned each day and that Jack was allowed to walk around outside of the cage frequently. The dog is "perfectly healthy and had no signs of muscle deterioration" as mentioned in the letter.
The dog is no longer staying in the kennel, according to Chief Collins. He says the dog was moved "for his protection," and will be living at the home of his new handler within the next few days.
Asked why the dog wasn't allowed to go with its original handler and why an 8 year old dog would be undergoing more training, Collins replied that the dog belongs to the police department, not to the handler, and that even at age 8, Jack is not ready to retire and has 3-4 years of service left with the department and with a new handler.
Collins and other city leaders, including Mayor Paul Woodson, have continued to get calls about the dog, some coming from as far away as the UK. Collins told WBTV that the blog post has been shared through social media and that many of the concerned callers and emailers are accepting the post without question.
"I simply don't know," Efird added. "I don't know anyone's motive behind it. I just want folks to know that we're caring for the dog, we're not going to let the dog be mistreated. He is healthy, he is happy...Jack's not being mistreated."
There have also been many calls and notes of support, according to Collins, but the chief says that many of the negative calls and notes are particularly mean spirited personal attacks.