By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek, February 21, 2020.
Having served as Mill Creek’s certified tracking and drug-detection dog since 2017, K9 Officer Bagira was forced to retire from active duty in December 2019.
According to Acting Police Chief Scott Eastman, Bagira began to display “ongoing and escalating behavioral issues” in January 2019 resulting in him biting his partner, Officer Nathan Lerma on numerous occasions.
At their February 11th meeting, Eastman told the city council, “This behavior prevented Officer Lerma from effectively using Bagira as a police service dog and created potential liability issues for the city.”
Eastman said there was an extensive effort made to correct Bagira’s behavior including over 300 hours of training.
The dog was given a medical evaluation including an MRI to determine if there was any physiological cause for the increased aggression, but no sign of brain tumor or other physical condition was diagnosed.
Concerned about Bagira’s future, Lerma located an organization in Pennsylvania that takes ex-police and military dogs, even those with behavioral problems.
Bagira was sent to K9 Hero Haven, which provides a retirement home for working dogs. They also work to place them in new Forever Homes whenever possible.
Eastman informed the city council that from this time forward Mill Creek will partner with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office K9 program in training a new K9 officer and in actively working local cases.
Lerma was sent to Indiana on February 16th with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office team to pick out a new Mill Creek Police dog.
Lerma and his new K9 partner were expected to begin training together soon after returning. This training is scheduled to be complete on April 9th.