Case Snapshot
Case ID: 11737
Classification: Shooting
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Animal was offleash or loose
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Saturday, Nov 18, 2006

County: Hancock

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: Steven E. Vanderhoff

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Eight months after Findlay's police dog Flip was shot to death after wandering onto a neighbor's property, the man who admits he killed the dog is expected to enter into a plea agreement in Hancock County Common Pleas Court.

Steven E. Vanderhoff, 41, was scheduled to go on trial Monday, but yesterday the trial was canceled and his case was set for a change-of-plea hearing, according to a court spokesman.

No details of the plea agreement were immediately available.

Mr. Vanderhoff was indicted in December by a Hancock County grand jury for cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, and assaulting a police dog, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine.

He told investigators he was defending himself and his young son Nov. 18 when he shot the dog as it came toward him on his Jackson Township property.

The felony charge would have required prosecutors to prove Mr. Vanderhoff knew Flip was a police dog when he shot him - something Mr. Vanderhoff claimed he did not know.

Jon Paul Rion, a Dayton attorney representing Mr. Vanderhoff, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but said Thursday that his client maintained his innocence.

"Obviously, Steven was very concerned for his safety and took the action he did," Mr. Rion said.

"He loves animals. He loves dogs," he said.

"He felt he was in danger and, more importantly, he felt his son was in danger."

County Prosecutor Mark Miller could not be reached for comment about a plea agreement.

According to the sheriff's office, the son of Flip's handler, Findlay police Officer Bryon Deeter, let Flip out of the house that afternoon but forgot to let him back in before the family went to a relative's house.

The dog wandered about a quarter-mile to Mr. Vanderhoff's property and walked up to Mr. Vanderhoff's vehicle when he pulled into the driveway.

Mr. Vanderhoff told deputies he tried repeatedly to get the dog to go away, then went into his house to get a shotgun.

He said that when he came out, the dog came toward him , so he shot him.

Flip, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, had worked with Officer Deeter since 2003 and was trained to sniff out drugs and track down criminal suspects and missing persons.

After the dog's death, Officer Deeter began working with a new dog named Spike, which was purchased with funds donated by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Findlay native Ben Roethlisberger.

After Flip was killed, the officer was not disciplined by the city or charged with allowing the dog to run loose.


Case Updates

A man who shot and killed a police dog when it came onto his property pleaded no contest Monday to criminal damaging and agreed to donate $250 to the humane society.

Steven Vanderhoff, 41, also received a 90-day suspended jail sentence.

Flip, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, was shot after he wandered away from his handler's home in November.

Attorney Jeff Whitman said Vanderhoff did not know Flip was a police dog, and that he was trying to protect himself and his infant son. They had just arrived home when they were approached by the dog, which acted aggressively, Vanderhoff said.

The dog wasn't wearing tags or any other type of identification.

About 1,000 people, including police officers and students, attended a memorial service for Flip in November. The dog made regular visits to schools that would hold fundraisers to buy equipment for Flip.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a native of Findlay, has contributed $9,400 to buy the department a new dog.
Source: Newark Advocate - July 16, 2007
Update posted on Jul 16, 2007 - 8:16PM 

References

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