I had an interesting question come up in a conversation the other day. A police department has a dual purpose dog (narcotics/patrol) and the handler left the department. It is a small agency so the only one willing to take the dog was a narcotics officer, who doesn;t have the need or the time available to maintain the patrol functions in the dog. He is only interested in the narcotics detection and the tracking functions.
His question was: "If I just recertify with him in the drugs and tracking, does that present any liability issues to the agency?"
My answer was, yes it does. Case law argues that a K9 must be trained, certified and reliable. Allowing any training to lapse presents a problem, but especially the apprehension training should not lapse. Because the dog was trained to apprehend and bite in a controlled fashion, allowing the training to lapse, as well as the certification, opens the handler to liability for not making sure the dog responds to all of his verbal commands properly. If the dog makes an accidental bite it could be argued that the impetus was the lack of control due to lapsed training, making a bad situation (accidental bite) worse by turning it into negligence. Further, if the supervisor allows this situation to occur, there is the possibility of a negligent supervision claim. Therefore, my answer was for the handler either to retire the dog, find another handler for him and get himself another dog for narcotics only, or continue all of the training with the dog and certify in all areas with him.