The public has made no secret of its concern since the story broke last month about Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy Brett Berry allegedly abusing his K-9 partner, Boone, at a hotel near Duluth after the two participated in certification trials.
Hundreds of e-mails and phone calls have poured into the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, asking if the dog is OK and if the deputy has been disciplined. And many want assurances that the alleged abuse, captured by hotel security video, never happens again.
"If I were to ever abuse my own pup or someone else's I would be charged with a huge fine and probably jail time," wrote one commenter on the sheriff's Facebook page.
Wrote another: "He [Berry] needs to be fired for assault on a fellow officer. If he had done this to a human co-worker you wouldn't even be posting this. He would have been gone right away."
Sgt. John Eastham, of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office has heard those calls, so much so that he decided to create and post photos and a video of an enthusiastic Boone running an obstacle course with a different K-9 handler — one of the department's best, Eastham said — to prove the dog is healthy and well. The video can be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/RamseyCountySheriff?fref=nf
That video, though, cannot answer many of the questions that the public has raised. Among them: What is happening with Berry, 45, a 15-year member of the sheriff's department?
Berry was placed on administrative leave while his criminal case continues. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 23 in Carlton County on two misdemeanors — for animal cruelty and assaulting a police dog.
Until his court case is resolved, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office will not comment about possible discipline, Eastham said.
The 5-year-old German shepherd's status also is uncertain.
The Facebook video shows Boone as a well-trained and able police dog. But Boone is not currently working on the street and has not been assigned to a new handler.
"His future with the department has not been determined at this point," Eastham said.
One reason for that could be the tight bond that is formed between a K-9 officer and its handler. Most of the dogs are not just kenneled somewhere. Many live with their handlers and are members of the family.
Officers often spend as much time, or more, with their K-9 partners than they do with other family members. In fact, many of the dogs have been seen on videos whimpering at the funeral of a fallen officer, or lying down next to a casket.
The bond between the officers and their K-9 partner can make allegations such as those against Berry hard for many to comprehend. But accusations of mistreatment of police dogs are not unheard of.
Last year, in Hammond, Ind., a police officer was placed on administrative leave when a video showed him allegedly abusing his K-9 partner. The officer was given additional training after a cellphone video showed him slapping the dog's midsection with a leash and lifting it off the ground by its neck.
In 2013, a Georgia police officer was placed on paid administrative after his K-9 partner was found dead of heat stroke in the back of his police car.