Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Police dogs are civil servants, Norwegian supreme court rules

Thu Jun 5, 12:26 PM ET

Police dogs should be considered civil servants and any acts of violence against them therefore merits the same punishment as attacks on human police officers, Norway's Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

"The police officer and dog work ... as a single unit and ... an attack on the dog must be viewed in the same manner as an attack on the officer," the court said in its ruling.

The case dates back to May 19, 2007, when a man breaking into a house in the western town of Bergen was chased down by police dog Vera. Once he was on the ground and was being placed in handcuffs, he struck the German Shepherd.

The man was found guilty of attempted burglary, but was freed in two lower courts on charges that he had attacked a civil servant. Those verdicts were overturned by Thursday's ruling.

"Resorting to violence against a police dog being used to assist in an official operation in the line of duty, and who is under the immediate control of the officer, clearly falls under the article" 127 of the Norwegian penal code protecting civil servants, the court said.

The defendant, whose name was not given, thereby risks up to three years behind bars.

The Supreme Court did not hand down a sentence, but ordered the Appeals Court to re-examine the case.