A Pennsylvania cop let his dog out and the results weren’t pretty, demonstrating the danger of police K9s interacting with cops who aren’t trained to work with dogs.
Butler City Officer Dave Vilotti‘s K9 partner – a German Shepard named Blade – bit Butler Township Officer Justin Welton in the leg while serving a criminal warrant, because Officer Vilotti let his dog off the leash while serving a warrant.
It is not known why the tiny Butler City Police Department maintains a K9 police unit – nor if it conducts special training for its officers to prevent blue on blue dog bites – but the department may not be able to actually afford it either, they’ve got a fundraising page on Facebook for the police dog. This story’s cover photo is from that “BCPD Fundraisers” page, which shows Vilotti regularly seeking funding to pay for the care and maintenance of his law enforcement partner, speaking in public and presumably at a few bars too.
Typically, tax revenue funds the operations of police, not donations which are not tax exempt, which brings to question the overall adequacy of police training for small towns who keep K9s on the beat. The police typically select large breed animals like German Shepard or the Belgian Malinois who are trained to take down suspects or sniff for drugs, but who also pack a tremendous bite and move freely when unleased.
Even though Blade the police dog just aggressively bit a person, his owner will not have to adhere to Pennsylvania’s tough “Dangerous Dog” law, which explicitly exempts police dogs and service dogs. The dog owner would othewise have to carry $50,000 worth of “control, confinement and liability” insurance, and owners are held accountable to crate and maintain control over their dog at all times.
Welton was coming down the stairs when the dog, which was not on a leash, bit him on the thigh.
The handler was in the basement when Welton was bitten.
It is unknown if the handler lost sight of the dog or if the handler was within sight to control the dog.
Township Police Chief John Hays said the incident happened about 1:30 p.m. Saturday on Ewing Street. The two departments had teamed up to serve a warrant for 31-year-old Justin Tincha of Butler, who was known to run from officers.
Chief Hays said in a local press release that the township does not own any police dogs, which may mean that there is not any K9 training for that department’s force.
The Quaker state has an unusual plethora of local governments including counties (similar to other states), boroughs (tiny towns of 1000 people or less) and townships (consisting of large geographic areas surrounding cities), and cities of different sizes. Butler, the city has 13,000 residents and sits about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, not to be confused with Butler College which is located in Indiana.
That’s what led to two different agencies, with virtually the same name, operating in the same jurisdiction, and there’s a third agency in that area too. The Butler County Sheriff’s office does not have jurisdiction to serve warrants, but only the power to arrest, hence its absence from the described incident.
Eventually, the duo of officers from both the township and city of Butler were eventually able to capture their suspect.
It is not known what the suspect was wanted for at this time.
Blade – the police dog who bit – is quite fortunate that Butler Township Officer Welton did not fire at the dog in fear for his life, because any reader of PINAC can tell you, this happens all too often.