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Ijo, the new police dog, poses on college green with his trainer John Kulchar on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. 

Athens County Sheriff's Office suspends K9 Deputy Ijo for biting inmate, reprimands handler

The sheriff said Ijo's handler did not clear the area prior to a drug sniff.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office suspended its only K9 deputy after the dog bit an inmate at Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail earlier this month.

The office reprimanded the dog's handler, Deputy John Kulchar, after he failed to clear an area of the jail during a drug sweep March 9, Sheriff Rodney Smith said.

During the sweep, K9 Deputy Ijo, a Dutch shepherd, bit an inmate in an unprovoked attack. The inmate was sent to a hospital with minor injuries. Smith said the inmate had “a couple holes in his arm."

“That person should never have been bitten,” Smith said.

Ijo’s suspension leaves the department without a patrol or drug-sniffing dog. Smith said the department used the dog about every day, but for now, the office's focus is on making sure it has a dog it can rely on.

“There’s no time limit for what we want to do,” Smith said, adding that the department’s decision to suspend Ijo was “an abundance of caution.”

A sheriff’s office policy requires deputies to clear an area of all people and animals during drug sweeps for safety reasons, Smith said, adding that Kulchar received a letter of reprimand to “re-familiarize” him with the policy.

“I’m not being that critical of (Kulchar),” Smith said.

Smith said Kulchar received no other disciplinary action, and if a new dog replaces Ijo, Kulchar will be the dog's handler. Smith said the letter was Kulchar’s first reprimand.

Ijo joined the department last spring, according to a previous Post report, and he cost about $11,500. Ijo assisted other departments, including state agencies and the Athens and Ohio University police departments.

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Ijo’s work isn’t over. Ijo will receive retraining, and the department may send him to work at a department outside the county.

Smith said the sheriff’s office needs a dog that can interact reliably with the community because the department hosts events that sometimes involve children. However, Smith said another department that just needs a police dog could benefit from Ijo.

“He’s still got a big long career ahead of him,” Smith said.


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