Police dog bites three-year-old boy

BY MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 14:56 07/05/2010
Tyler Hatton
INJURED: A Police dog attack left Tyler Hatton with two minor puncture wounds on his lip and a "minor gash" on the bridge of his nose.

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A three-year-old Napier boy was bitten on the face by a police dog during a kindergarten visit.

The incident happened yesterday when the boy was patting the restrained dog during a visit to Riversdale Kindergarten, when it turned and bit him on the face.

The attack left Tyler Hatton with two minor puncture wounds on his lip and a "minor gash" on the bridge of his nose.

Approximately 39 other children witnessed the incident as they sat on the mat, waiting for their turn to pat the dog.

The victim was seen by a doctor but was sent home without requiring treatment.

Father Matthew Hatton said Tyler, who was recovering at home today, had been distraught after the incident and no longer wanted to be around dogs.

"He was hysterical, obviously, because he's never been bitten by a dog before."

Mr Hatton, a teacher at Flaxmere College, said he had initially reacted angrily, however, he said it was a freak accident.

"Naturally I'm disappointed and when I first found out about it I was angry but... accidents happen, dogs are dogs," he said.

"I'm still a bit freaked out and he's still a bit freaked out and his mum's still a bit freaked out but we don't want to see people overreact."

Police Eastern District operations manager Inspector Mike O'Leary and the "mortified" dog's handler had visited the family at their Taradale home to apologise.

The family praised the response of both the police and kindergarten staff.

Mr O'Leary said police were investigating the incident while the dog was having its health, physical condition and behavioural status re-assessed by a senior dog handler.

The dog lived with the handler and his young family and had never given the handler any cause for alarm in the past, Mr O'Leary said.

It was "highly unusual" for a police dog to react badly to a small child.

"We are working with the handler at the moment and trying to ascertain why the dog may have acted the way it did," he said.

"The handler is devastated that his dog could have done this to a small child and is very upset by the incident."

Mr Hatton, a former dog owner, said he would hate to see anything more serious happen to the dog.

The Hattons did not currently own a dog and Mr Hatton said his son had told them they would never get another one.

"He might get back on the horse at a later date, so to speak...just right now he's quite comfortable not having any dogs."

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Napier Kindergarten Association General Manager Helen McNaughton said the police dog handlers, as well as other professionals such as firemen and dental nurses, were called in to help familiarise the kids with authority figures.

They would be investigating the incident and could not say at this stage whether the visits would continue.

"We are taking it very, very seriously and we have put appropriate processes in place to review what has happened and to identify what we may need to do in the future to ensure the safety of the children in visits like this."

Some of the children had been frightened by the incident and management was looking in to ways to ensure their fears were dealt with.

Parents were being contacted to discuss the incident today while kindergarten representatives would be speaking with police.

- Stuff

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