An Edmonton police dog died this morning after it was stabbed during the pursuit of a suspect.
"Very sad day for the EPS," Const. Brendan Power said in a tweet Monday. "Lost PSD Quanto. That dog loved to work and we loved having him back us up."
Police began chasing a vehicle with a stolen licence plate near 90th street and 118th Avenue at 5:15 a.m. MT Monday.
The vehicle took off and was pursued to the area of 111th Avenue and 109th Street where it crashed into the median in front of a gas station, prompting the suspect to flee on foot.
The suspect, who refused to obey any verbal commands, was then chased down by Const. Matt Williamson and police service dog Quanto.
Police said Quanto, a five-year-old German shepherd with four years of decorated service and more than 100 arrests to his name, was stabbed repeatedly with a knife when he approached the suspect.
'He made the ultimate sacrifice. That was his job and he did it well.' - Troy Carriere, acting staff-sergeant of the Edmonton police canine unit
The suspect dropped the knife when other officers arrived and he was arrested.
Williamson took the dog to an emergency veterinarian clinic where Quanto was pronounced dead a short time later.
"I want you to know that PSD Quanto died doing his job," said Deputy Chief Danielle Campbell.
"PSD Quanto most definitely saved the lives of members who were responding to that call and no doubt prevented further harm to the public."
"There's no question that had he not been deployed to apprehend this subject, who was highly motivated to get away, we most likely would have seen one of our own members hurt or killed," seconded Troy Carriere, acting staff-sergeant of the Edmonton police canine unit.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice. That was his job and he did it well."
Quanto recently placed third in a Canadian Police Canine Association competition in Regina.
Edmonton police call for harsher laws protecting police dogs
A 27-year-old man, wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for armed robberies in Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, Ont., and being unlawfully at large, is facing several charges including possession of a weapon, dangerous driving, resisting arrest, criminal flight and possession of stolen property.
But when it comes to the death of the dog, Carriere said cruelty to an animal is the strongest charge that can be laid.
There are no charges under the Criminal Code in relation to somebody killing a police dog in the line duty.
"It's been our intent to have that changed," Carriere said.
“We need to adjust the Criminal Code at some point in time and this is obviously a good time to do that."
Sgt. Murray Pollock, head of the Calgary police canine unit and a director with the Canadian Police Canine Association, said the protection of police dogs in the Criminal Code is an issue officers have wanted to see addressed for quite some time.
Some provinces have laws protecting services dogs.
A section of Saskatchewan's Animal Protection Act, for example, carries a penalty of up to two years in jail for anyone who harms a service dog, which includes dogs working with police.
Penalties for animal cruelty in the Criminal Code were recently increased, with the maximum sentence being five years behind bars.
But Pollock said a Criminal Code section dealing with service dogs, which would be applicable across Canada, would make for a much stronger deterrent.
"Absolutely. That's where we would like to go," he said.
"In a case like Edmonton today, they would be facing the most serious of charges, not dissimilar to assaulting a police office — it's what we would like to see. We believe strongly that our dogs are police officers."
Dogs in the line of duty
Quanto is the fifth Edmonton police dog to die in the line of duty. A police dog named Caesar was the last animal killed, in 1998.
In 2010, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin scolded Edmonton police for using excessive force when they shot a man, Kirk Steele, four times after he stabbed a police dog.
Macklin called the shooting "an unconscionable use of excessive and aggressive force in the circumstances."
Both Steele and the dog, Wizzard, survived and a disciplinary charge of unnecessary use of force against the handler, Staff-Sgt. Bruce Edwards, was dismissed.