Sooke teen could be first charged under new law protecting police dogs

Brother of canine officer assaulted helped get law passed

  • Jun. 26, 2011 3:00 p.m.

The province’s first criminal charges handed out under a new law against injuring police service dogs could be laid against an East Sooke teen for kicking a Saanich police dog.

Saanich canine officer Const. Jason Whittaker was instrumental in getting the B.C. law passed in late May – and, coincidently, his twin brother, Const. Justin Whittaker, and his dog Taz are believed to be the first victims who’ll be protected by the new law.

Whittaker was called by Central Saanich Police last Tuesday night to help find a suspect. He and Taz tracked the suspect through dense bush along the ocean shoreline.

“In the process of being apprehended, the suspect kicked the police dog in the head several times and both the police service dog and the suspect fell into the water below,” said Cpl. Janis Jean, media liaison for Central Saanich Police. “The suspect, in effort to escape arrest, tried to choke the Saanich Canine Officer.”

Neither Whittaker or Taz suffered serious injury, said Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen.

“His brother drove the legislation. This appears, to me, to be the first circumstance that fits with this service dog legislation in the province,” Jantzen said.

This is a prime example, Jantzen said, of why Jason pushed for the legislation to protect the animals they work beside on a daily basis.

“They’re certainly an asset to our community. Anything we can do to offer protection to them is important to us, and it’s important to our community.”

A 16-year-old East Sooke teen faces numerous charges including assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and injuring a police service dog.

Under the province’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act it is an offence to cause harm to a service animal. The penalty is up to two years in prison and/or a fine up to $75,000.

– with files from Christine van Reeuwyk

kslavin@saanichnews.com