Police Dog Lonca and handler Constable Steven Balice may have helped save lives when they brought down a suspect during an illegal gaming operation investigation.
Balice and Lonca were covering the rear exit of a house where the Emergency Task Force and members of 31 Division were about to execute search warrants.
Standing alone in the backyard with his canine partner, Balice heard the loud bang of the front door being breached by the ETF.
A few seconds later, a man came running out of the backdoor of the house with a stick-like object in his hand, making his way towards the front of the house where officers were stationed.
Fearing for the safety of the officers in front of the house, Constable Balice told the man to stop running.
“I gave him numerous commands to stop running,” he says, adding that the object in his hand looked like a baseball bat at first glance.
When the man didn’t cooperate, Balice let go of Lonca and commanded him to apprehend the man. Lonca is a two-year-old German Sheppard general purpose dog. Beyond tracking suspects and gathering evidence, one of his skills is taking down suspects safely.
Lonca ran towards the suspect and grabbed his right leg, bringing the man down. He then sat next to the man and began barking – as is protocol after a takedown.
“Lonca did his exact job, which is to bark and hold,” says Balice, as he began nearing the suspect. As Balice told the man to drop his weapon, the man tried to get away and swung the weapon in his hand towards Lonca’s face. It was then that Balice saw it glint in the light. It was a machete. The man allegedly swung the machete at Lonca, hitting the dog in the face. The man swung again, hitting Lonca near his front leg.
Lonca, however, did not move from his duties and kept barking, at which point the officer drew his weapon and ordered the man down.
The man gave in and threw the machete away.
“Blood was spurting from Lonca’s mouth. I couldn’t tell where the wound was,” says Balice. By that time ETF had heard the commotion and came to arrest the man, while Constable Balice administered first aid to his dog, then took him to an emergency veterinarian.
He made me proud and our training kicked in and it was awesome to see the two of us work together as a team
“The dog saved the day for everybody,” says Police Dog Services (PDS) Staff Sergeant James Hung. “Every day, throughout the world, service dogs save lives, whether finding a missing child or sniffing out explosives.”
In this case, Lonca saved not only partner Constable Balice, but also the officers out front who could have been attacked by the machete-wielding suspect, says Hung.
Lonca is expected to recover in a week’s time, with five stiches to his mouth and two staples on his front left paw.
“It’s hard to see your dog getting injured or even assaulted… at the end of the day their job is to save life and gather evidence and he loves what he does and he does it really well. He made me proud and our training kicked in and it was awesome to see the two of us work together as a team,” says Balice, of his dog, who is named after the Italian town where his family traces back its roots.
The man was charged with Possession of Proceeds of Crime, Injuring/Wounding an Animal and Weapons Dangerous.
“This is the first time that a suspect has been charged under Quanto’s law for injuring a service dog,” says Hung. Quanto’s law, passed this summer, makes it a criminal offence for anyone who willfully kills, maims, wounds poisons or injures a law enforcement animal while it is on duty aiding officers. It also applies to service animals and military animals.
Hung says it is the first time anyone at PDS can remember a service dog injured in the line of duty.