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Damages sought in police dog's death

August 09, 2008|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — City Atty. Michael Aguirre filed a civil complaint Friday in San Diego Superior Court seeking damages from Officer Paul Hubka, whose police dog died of heat stroke after being left in Hubka's squad car.

Aguirre wants Hubka to pay the cost of acquiring and training a replacement for his dog. He said the cost exceeds $25,000. "Since 9/11, police dogs have become hard to replace because of the high demand for them worldwide," said Executive Assistant City Atty. Don McGrath.

Aguirre's announcement comes as the San Diego County district attorney is determining whether to file a criminal charge against Hubka under a law that makes it a crime to leave a dog in a car on a hot day. Hubka's dog, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois named Forrest, died when it was left in his squad car on a day when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees.

Hubka, a 22-year veteran of the Police Department, remains on duty but has been removed from the canine squad.

The Belgian Malinois, a medium-size dog with great stamina and intelligence, is used by police departments across the U.S. Like the San Diego department, some departments get the dogs from breeders in Europe.

Aguirre announced Monday that he would not approve the payment of $50,000 to Hubka, his share of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by three officers claiming the city owed them extra pay for their canine duties. Hubka's attorney protested that the payment had already been approved by the City Council and was unrelated to the dog's death.

Hubka allegedly left Forrest in his squad car after he returned to his home in Alpine after working an overnight shift. Hours later the dog was found dead. City policy requires officers on the canine squad to be responsible for their dogs 24 hours a day.

With 45 dogs used for patrol and detection, the San Diego department says it has the largest canine unit of any department in the country. Among its dogs are German shepherds, Rottweilers and Belgian Malinois.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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