COLUMBIA — Pointing out that Fano is an aggressive dog and capable of harming a person, City Manager Mike Matthes recommended in a memo to the Columbia City Council on Thursday that the city not sell the police dog to fired Columbia Police Department patrol officer Rob Sanders.
Sanders was fired from the Columbia Police Department on Sept. 21 for using excessive force against a prisoner in a holding cell. He was Fano's handler for more than a year, and he and his wife, Amy Sanders, are seeking to buy the dog.
At an Oct. 3 council meeting, Amy Sanders and supporters spoke in favor of selling the dog to the Sanders family. Amy Sanders told the council that Police Chief Ken Burton said her husband could purchase the dog. Burton, however, said last week that he had told Sanders he "would look into it."
Matthes noted in his memo that despite extensive training, Fano has bitten an officer. Burton voiced concerns last week that if Fano were to hurt someone after being sold to the Sanderses, the police department could be liable for selling the dog to civilians.
Matthes echoed this worry in his memo.
"I believe Fano is easily capable of harming a person," Matthes wrote.
Matthes also said in the memo that selling Fano would result in a loss of "significant (training) effort and investment."
The city's risk management department estimated how much it would cost to replace Fano and came up with a figure of $10,800 to replace the dog and train it with a handler. Burton said the cost could be as much as $13,000.
Matthes also wrote in the memo that Fano's age — he's 2 1/2 years old — and his natural characteristics of aggression and drive made him an ideal police dog.
Although Burton said last week that Sanders' firing did not affect his views on selling Fano, Matthes wrote in his memo that he "can't separate the ongoing personnel action from the request for Fano."
"Central to this process is the question of judgment and the ability to govern aggression," Matthes wrote.
Amy Sanders said Friday that Burton told the couple the department "could look into" selling Fano but redirected them to police Capt. Brad Nelson.
She said she couldn't understand why the risk management department had been asked to estimate Fano's insurance payout.
"There would be no reason for them to ever have given us a price if we couldn't purchase the dog," she said. "Why did they even come up with that figure? Why did they contact risk management?"
Fano lived with the Sanders family until Rob Sanders was fired from the department. If the Sanders family is able to purchase the dog, Amy Sanders said they would seek to eventually return Fano to work.
Burton and Matthes met Oct. 5 to discuss the possibility of selling Fano. Matthes' recommendation will go before the council during its meeting Monday.