POLICE DOG handlers were ordered to chastise their animals by kicking and punching them while they hung from their leads over a wall, a court heard yesterday.
Instructors at the Essex police dog unit also told handlers to swing aggressive dogs around on their leads "helicopter fashion", Chelmsford magistrates' court was told.
One dog - a German shepherd called Acer - died as a result of haemorrhaging and liver damage after being beaten while hanging from his lead, said Peter Wain, for the prosecution. He said methods of chastisement taught at the unit at Sandon, near Chelmsford, amounted to an offence of cruelty under the Protection of Animals Act.
Four officers from the dog unit deny cruelty. They are Inspector Graham Curtis, 43, who headed the unit, Sergeant Andrew White, 37, who was in charge of instructors, and instructors PC Kenneth Boorman, 45, and PC Graham Hopkins, 42.
Mr Wain said Boorman and Hopkins had taught the methods of chastisement as a way of dealing with aggressive dogs. White had backed and encouraged the instructors and Curtis had approved of their methods.
He said that the handlers did not like treating their animals in this way but that they had been told by White: "If you are instructed to string your dog up, you string him up."
One officer left the unit because of his unease about the way dogs were treated. Another had asked to leave, the court was told.
Mr Wain said magistrates would hear of seven instances of cruelty - relating to five German shepherd police dogs - between September and November 1997. In six of those instances Boorman had instructed handlers to beat their dogs. On one occasion Hopkins had given the order.
The hearing was adjourned and continues today.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies