An English tribunal decided in favor of a customs officer who claimed that he was fired for refusing to abuse the dog he handled. David Ormsby, a trainee dog handler in Jersey, said that he went through “15 months of hell” because he refused to beat and choke his dog like other handlers, and that he was ultimately fired because of it. The tribunal awarded him £15,000 ($23,220.75) as compensation for unfair dismissal.
Ormsby had been a customs officer for 34 years before he decided to apply for the dog handling program in 2013. According to him, his fellow officers abused their dogs to get them to comply with orders. “I didn’t agree with their working style,” he testified, “or the punishments they dished out to the dogs if they did anything wrong.”
Ormsby says that he was mocked and harassed by his trainers and colleagues because he treated Buddy, the dog he was assigned to work with, with compassion.
One notable incident involved a dog that urinated on the office carpet. “[The officer] picked up the dog by its harness, punched the dog in the head, and shook him violently up and down while holding onto the back of the harness,” Ormsby said. “Then he threw the dog across the room to the exit, before going over to him, picking him up again, and throwing him into the hallway.”
According to Ormsby’s testimony, that wasn’t an isolated incident, and such treatment was not only tolerated by the customs officials, but encouraged. His conflict with the trainers culminated about a week before his final test. Ornsby was called into a meeting during which his trainer told the managers that he didn’t think that there was any chance Ornsby could pass the test. He was immediately removed from the course and dismissed.
All dog lovers can be glad that the tribunal decided in Ornsby’s favor, but unfortunately, the decision said little about the appropriate treatment of dogs. It focused more on the fact that Ornsby was dismissed before he had a chance to prove himself in the final test: “To allow the applicant to take the test would have proved beyond doubt whether or not he was capable of being a dog handler,” the tribunal said in their decision. “Given the importance of the test and the fact that it was less than two weeks away, the decision to deny the applicant to prove his worth was fundamentally flawed.”
We’re happy that an injustice was corrected, but as of now, there’s no sign that an investigation into the treatment of customs dogs is being considered, which is an even greater injustice than Ornsby’s termination.
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