Ventnor Police Officer Jamie Pirchio was recently attacked by her K-9 partner, Niko, causing injury to her legs, arms and hands and requiring same-day surgery.

Pirchio is on medical leave and Niko is in a kennel where he will stay until the department determines whether he can remain on the force, Police Chief Michael Miller said.

Pirchio was attempting to feed the animal at their Northfield home when it got distracted and turned on her, attacking her legs, arms and hands, Miller said.

She attempted to regain Niko’s attention during the attack by using a toy, as she was taught in their training. Pirchio was able to get the dog back in its cage and run to her neighbor’s house where she screamed for help.

Northfield resident Bob Webb, a retired police officer whose home Pirchio ran to, said he and his wife had just returned from church and were in their house eating breakfast when they heard Pirchio’s screams.

“She was screaming, ‘Help me, Help me, my dog bit me,’” Webb said, “and my God, I came outside and there was blood everywhere, coming from her legs, arms, hands. I laid her down on the porch and cut her pant legs off to put pressure on the wounds until the paramedic came.”

The city of Ventnor purchased Niko, untrained, in September for $6,800. Additional costs associated with the K-9 include training, which is estimated to cost about $10,000, according to industry standards, upfitting a police vehicle with a cage for the animal, which cost $7,561, and animal insurance, food and vet bills.

Niko is the department’s only K-9. Pirchio recently tore her anterior cruciate ligament and was on leave when the incident took place.

When the city bought Niko, several residents said they should have had a say in the purchase of the animal. Resident Paula DeLuca said the whole thing was “hush-hush.” She found out about the animal through talk around town and filed an Open Public Records Act request, which confirmed the purchase.

Miller said it isn’t completly uncommon for a K-9 to accidentally bite his handler due to distraction. He referred to the incident as a “perfect storm.”

Contact Elisa Lala:

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