Melbourne Police Officer Accused of Abusing K-9—PETA Urges Immediate Reassignment

For Immediate Release:
December 6, 2021

Contact:
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Melbourne, Fla. – Armed with damning documents obtained through a public records request, PETA sent a letter to Melbourne Chief of Police David Gillespie over the weekend, calling for Officer John Grohman—who returns to duty today after a 14-month deployment—to be reassigned and barred from interactions with K-9s instead of being allowed to return to the K-9 unit, as is reportedly planned.

In the documents, other K-9 handlers—including an instructor—describe concerns about Grohman’s inability and/or unwillingness to train and handle K-9 Canto humanely. Although Grohman had been instructed to use a shock collar only under the supervision of a certified K-9 instructor, K-9 Canto had sores on his neck that were “obviously from excessive wear and use” of the collar. The documents also detail how K-9 Canto was once a “social and confident” dog who began to exhibit severe psychological trauma and distressed, skittish behavior, including fear of water hoses, trash cans, and even his own food bowl.

“If such allegations were made against a civilian, they would surely be investigated, as they indicate felony cruelty to animals,” writes PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “K-9s—through no choice of their own—risk their lives in the line of duty just as human officers do and deserve to be treated with the same respect.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—encourages humane K-9 training methods. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Gillespie follows.

December 4, 2021

David Gillespie, Chief of Police

Melbourne Police Department

Dear Chief Gillespie:

I hope this letter finds you well. PETA has obtained public records that merit your immediate attention, concerning allegations of cruelty to Melbourne Police Department K-9 Canto by his previous handler, Officer John Grohman. We understand that Officer Grohman has been on deployment for the last 14 months and is scheduled to return to duty on Monday, December 6. Concerns about his inability and/or unwillingness to train and handle K-9 Canto humanely—including evidence that the dog suffered severe psychological trauma and sustained injuries to his neck from the “prolonged overuse” of an electric shock collar while in Officer’s Grohman’s care and custody—have been sent up the chain of command.

We are told that despite detailed and chilling statements from experienced K-9 handlers and instructors who shared their expert opinions that Officer Grohman should not be permitted to return to the K-9 unit, the Melbourne Police Department intends to allow him to work with K-9s again. We hope this is not the case and seek your assurance that Officer Grohman will be permanently reassigned to another unit and barred from interaction with K-9s.

Would you please conduct a thorough review of all records pertaining to K-9 Canto, including training records and statements submitted by Officer David Helms, Officer Johnny Rodriguez, and Lt. Steven Sadoff on November 3, 2021? These statements include the following:

  • “K9 Canto being a social and confident dog was no longer present. He was timid and showed fear of people, he would run from inanimate objects and was apprehensive to enter buildings when not involved in … training scenarios. … I feel that Officer Rodriguez has not only saved this K9’s career but possibly saved his life.”—Officer David Helms
  • “I quickly noticed that K9 Canto displayed skittish behavior, lack of motivation and confidence during non-stressful training scenarios. All of which concerned me…. K9 Canto was skittish around people, different environments, objects and structures, causing K9 Canto to be hyper sensitive to everything surrounding us…. Many times K9 Canto feared me and those around me. All of these behaviors indicated a lack of trust and having fear…. K9 Canto’s fearful behavior constantly surfaced during training. K9 Canto also feared trash cans and water hoses when present.”—Officer Johnny Rodriguez
  • “I was shown marks on Canto’s neck which were obviously from excessive wear and use of the E-Collar despite Officer Grohman being instructed not to use the E-Collar unless under the supervision of a certified K-9 instructor. I also observed the dog’s skittish behavior around trashcans, buildings, hoses and other inanimate objects to include mannequins and according to [O]fficer Rodriguez, his food bowl. This type of behavior is indicative of a dog that had received extreme/negative compulsion and correction.”—Lt. Steven Sadoff

If such allegations were made against a civilian, they would surely be investigated, as they indicate felony cruelty to animals. The public expects law-enforcement officers to meet an even higher standard of care and integrity. K-9s—through no choice of their own—risk their lives in the line of duty just as human officers do and deserve to be treated with the same respect as any other officers who put their lives on the line protecting the residents of Melbourne.

PETA works with and supports police departments all over the nation, often collaborating to investigate, charge, and prosecute animal abusers. Given heightened awareness of police officer conduct, we hope you will send the message that abuse of and cruelty to animals will not be tolerated by the Melbourne Police Department. Thank you for your attention. I hope to hear from you soon.

Respectfully,

Daphna Nachminovitch

Senior Vice President

Cruelty Investigations Department

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