By Sandra McCulloch, timescolonist.com June 3, 2011

Saanich police dog Brock regularly puts his life on the line to save his handler, Const. Jason Whittaker, and now Whittaker has gone beyond the call of duty to protect Brock and police dogs like him.

On Thursday, the provincial government passed a law making it illegal to hurt a police dog.

Anyone convicted under the new legislation will face a maximum fine of $75,000 or two years in jail.

"I've been a police dog handler with Saanich police for the last three years and I've met a lot of handlers from across the country," Whittaker said on Friday.

"The resounding concern for us was there was nothing affording protection to police dogs under the Criminal Code of Canada or provincially. They were seen as tools and resources."

The new legislation recognizes police dogs "as an extension of a police officer ó they are acting on our behalf and are much more than tools and resources. They're partners, parts of our families and living, breathing animals."

Whittaker wanted to be a police officer so he could work with dogs. Brock, a five-year-old German shepherd, "is the best partner I ever had. We work so well together."

Whittaker recalls responding to a break and enter at a liquor store. No one witnessed the offence and the dog was asked to pick up a scent and follow it. "Brock tracked from the liquor store for about a kilometre and a half right to the front door of a house and barked," said Whittaker. "We recovered all the liquor that had been stolen and arrested the two males responsible."

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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