Viral Video of Officer Yanking Dog Leash Sparked Outrage, Officer Cleared

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A K-9 handler who sharply yanked his dog’s leash during a traffic stop has been cleared of wrongdoing in the May 6, 2018 incident. But not before more than 100 people emailed the city to complain after a social media video went viral. 

Wilton Manors K-9 Officer Robert Ferguson told investigators his Belgian Malinois Diego “was not paying attention” and “did not feel like working,” when he yanked the leash as a correction.  

The pair were on an “open sniff” traffic stop to determine if narcotics were in a stopped vehicle.  

The city was flooded with accusations of animal cruelty. 

“I was inundated with emails accusing the officer of animal cruelty and asking that he be criminally charged and fired,” said Wilton Manors Police Chief Paul O’Connell. “I was surprised at the intensity [of] the comments.” 

A former K-9 supervisor and trainer for the New York Police Department and a retired Broward Sheriff’s Office K-9 Officer each reviewed dash cam video and audio from the traffic stop and said in sworn statements that Ferguson’s actions were justified and reasonable. 

A veterinarian also examined Diego and found no evidence of injury and bodily harm. 

The motorist who videotaped the dog declined to speak with investigators. 

“There is a difference between a work dog and a pet,” O’Connell said. “Diego is [a] work dog and he wasn’t doing his job and the officer administered a correction which is standard in the police K-9 industry.” 

Ferguson, who has worked for Wilton Manors Police for six years, has been a K-9 handler for three years, O’Connell said.  

“He is one of our most reliable police officers in the department,” O’Connell added. 


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