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Columbia Missourian

Former Columbia police officer Rob Sanders gets dog Fano back

By Dani Kass
February 12, 2013 | 12:42 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA—The police dog Fano was given to his former Columbia Police handler, Rob Sanders, on Monday.

Sanders, a former Columbia Police officer, tried to buy the dog after he was fired from the Columbia Police Department in September 2011 for excessive use of force on a prisoner in a holding cell. City Council denied his request, saying Fano still had a future as a police dog and was too aggressive for private ownership.

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Private citizens raised more than $10,000 to help Sanders purchase Fano, but the city refused to sell the animal. Fano was boarded in Cape Girardeau for 18 months before he was bought by the Clarence Police Department on January 30 for $1.

Fano was sold because of the excessive costs of boarding him, according to a Columbia police news release.

But as it turned out, Fano was “too aggressive for this small town,” Clarence Police Chief Raymond Barton said Tuesday morning.

The dog was "high-drive,” Barton said. “He was always needing something to do, and sometime he’d reach out and nip (people) — didn’t break the skin or anything, it was just an attention-getter for the dog, and that wouldn’t go over here.”

Barton said he was looking for a dog that was calmer.

"I need (a dog) you can walk over to the school and the kids can pet him," he said.

Barton sold Fano for $1 to another officer, who he said was not in the Columbia Police Department.

Dale Roberts, executive director of the Columbia Police Officers’ Association, said the officer who bought Fano brought him back to Sanders and his wife, Amy.

“The dog had bonded with Rob Sanders,” Roberts said. “Rob and Amy are the only humans the dog has ever known.”

Amy Sanders posted on the Canine Fano Facebook account Monday, saying: “He jumped into Rob's arms and licked him like crazy. Pawing and leaning on him. It was awesome!!”

Canine Fano was started as a place for private citizens to come together and work to get Fano back to Sanders. The group includes Columbia Police Officers, but they don't disclose their names out of fear of retaliation within the department, an administrator said.

Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton could not be reached for comment. 

A criminal charge of third-degree assault is pending against Sanders in connection with the incident that brought about his firing.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.