Cass County, MO – Cass County K9 Champ is recovering after being stabbed in the neck, and the suspect faces a potential maximum sentence of 15 days in jail.
The incident occurred on Monday, Dec. 12, after Cass County deputies arrived at the area near 291 Highway and South Commercial Street to help Harrisonville police officers with a foot pursuit, according to KSHB.
K9 Champ and his handler tracked the suspect, Zachary Wilbanks, 17, from the Harrisonville Walmart to a field behind a nearby strip mall. The K9 and Wilbanks both ran into the field, according to the K9's handler, who said he lost sight of them.
After Wilbanks was arrested, K9 Champ's handler noticed blood in the kennel area of his cruiser and checked the K9 to see if he was injured.
He found a wound on the K9's neck, which veterinarians said was a one and a half inch puncture wound. K9 Champ was treated and is recovering at his handler's residence. The vets said his wound did not appear to be life-threatening.
Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber said, “Absent that dog we ask ourself, 'Would it have been the deputy who would have been stabbed?’”
In Missouri, assault on a police animal is a low-level crime, on the level of shoplifting. It’s a Class C misdemeanor, carrying a maximum of 15 days in jail.
"It’s unfortunate they are viewed that way. We would hope that something like this would spark legislators to look at changing that law, because I’ll tell you our deputies working here feel that charge should be similar to if they hurt an officer," Sheriff Weber said.
K9 Champ is a German Shepherd who has served with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office since 2013, and is one of two K9s for the agency. After his recovery, he may need additional training to make sure he doesn’t have lingering after-effects that may affect his return to law enforcement.
"He's a great dog, really has done a lot for us in terms of apprehension of suspects, finding key evidence in crimes, and finding drugs," Sheriff Weber said.
Wilbanks was charged with assault on a police animal and resisting or interfering with arrest. The second charge of resisting arrest requires only a signature to be released from jail.