An ACT police officer who fired capsicum spray towards a tethered dog during a raid at a southside home will not face criminal charges, but has been ordered to undergo formal counselling and retraining.
The owner of the dog only found out about the reprimand after ACT Policing issued a press release late on Wednesday afternoon, prompting allegations police were more interested in repairing their damaged image than safeguarding the dog's welfare.
Police officer sprays at a dog with capsicum spray
CCTV footage shows a police officer using capsicum spray towards a chained up dog, then throw a stick at it. NO SOUND
Police on Wednesday said an internal investigation into the May incident had found the officer had breached professional standards.
The report would not be made public.
Chief Police Officer for the ACT Rudi Lammers said the force would also seek RSPCA co-operation to provide extra training for police in dealing with animals in the course of their duty.
CCTV footage revealed on The Canberra Times showed a plain-clothes Australian Federal Police officer spraying towards a chained dog during a search of an unoccupied Griffith house in May.
It also showed a plain clothes AFP officer barking at the dog.
The officer then shot a burst of oleoresin capsicum spray directly at the stationary animal and it quickly retreated out of sight.
Minutes later, three AFP officers could be seen apparently laughing, with one recording on his mobile phone.
The officer who used the spray later threw a stick in the direction of the animal and left.
When the footage emerged, ACT Policing shifted the male officer into a desk job and launched internal investigation through AFP Professional Standards.
In a press release, Assistant Commissioner Lammers said the complaint had been the subject of an extensive investigation by professional standards, which confirmed a breach.
But he said no criminal charges would be laid against the officer because there had been no evidence the dog had been injured by the spray.
"I am well aware of the significant feedback and concerns expressed about this matter and wish to reassure the ACT community that the AFP takes allegations of misconduct by its members very seriously and does not tolerate misbehaviour," he said.
"In addition, ACT Policing does not condone or tolerate cruelty to animals in any form and the outcomes of this investigation further reinforce this."
The dog's owner, Justen Storay, and his lawyers, Ben Aulich and Associates, said the only information they received from the police on the matter had been a letter confirming the complaint had been "established" by an investigation.
"No further details were provided," lawyer Peter Woodhouse said.
Mr Woodhouse said he had written to police to find out what action would be taken against the officers involved.
The police press release, containing those details, was then subsequently published.
"The fact that Mr Storay had to find out the detailed outcome of the investigation via a press release is shameful," Mr Woodhouse said.
"It appears the AFP are more interested in trying to repair the damage this matter caused to their image."
Mr Woodhouse said the order to undergo counselling and retraining was an insufficient reaction to what took place.
"We had hoped to AFP would take this matter more seriously than they seem to.
"Cruelty or violence towards animals is to be strongly condemned and should not be tolerated, especially by those in a position if authority and trust."
Mr Woodhouse also called on the AFP to make public the report.
" What have the AFP got to hide?" he said.
RSPCA ACT chief executive officer Tammy Ven Dange said the welfare of the animal was always the most important aspect in incidents.
"While we were not formally involved in the AFP's internal investigation, we acknowledge their report and welcome the opportunity to work potentially alongside ACT's Domestic Animal Services on training activities for not just this police officer, but for any officer that might come into contact with animals to avoid similar events from occurring again," Ms Ven Dange said.