Oli, one of three police dogs working for the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, was seriously cut Wednesday in a suspicious incident and will be off duty for two weeks, jail officials said.
The American-bred German shepherd needed 32 stitches to close two lacerations caused by a razor blade from a utility knife that had been lodged in a wire fence outside the detention center, where the animal is exercised daily, said Lt. Col. George R. Hardinger, the warden.
The 2-year-old female dog is assigned to jail security. She is used to monitor inmates during outdoor recreation and to search for drugs and contraband when work-release inmates return to the detention center.
'We can only speculate'
Except for a few entrusted to work outdoors, no inmates have access to the fenced area where the utility blade was found, Hardinger said.
"We can only speculate as to how the blade got there," he said.
Deputy 1st Class Kirk Shiloh, the K-9's handler, said he took Oli outside to play ball at 7: 30 p.m., as usual, in a locked, fenced area. That area is designed to keep outsiders away from an inner fenced area used for inmate recreation.
"I tossed a ball and Oli retrieved it a few times, and then she came back limping," Shiloh said.
The deputy reached down and felt nothing unusual at first, but quickly realized his hand was covered with blood.
Shiloh rushed the dog to a veterinarian, who sutured a 4-inch laceration about an inch deep on her shoulder and another one in her rib-cage area, about 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches deep, Shiloh said.
The gashes were clean, not torn or ripped, Hardinger said.
The cut near the rib cage involved only flesh and the other cut into shoulder muscle, Shiloh said.
After Oli had been treated, Shiloh returned to the detention center and found the blade in the grass next to the fence. He said dog hair was found on the blade, but rain apparently had washed away any blood.
"We believe that blade was lodged there, protruding from the fence and fell to the grass after the dog brushed against it," Hardinger said.
Someone might have thought an inmate could retrieve it, Shiloh said.
Jail workers would consider the blade contraband, so an inmate returning from a work-release job might have placed it in the fence, knowing he could not carry it into the detention center, Hardinger acknowledged.
The fenced area is monitored by a closed-circuit camera, but the device was not connected to a videocassette recorder.
"The new cameras [being installed in the detention center's 100-bed addition] will have VCRs," he said.
To prevent a recurrence, Hardinger said a kennel has been ordered.
Oli was donated to the sheriff's office in April and completed 16 weeks of training in June.
With Oli out, Hardinger said one of the other dogs might be assigned to fill in.
"We can allow inmate recreation without a dog present," he said.