VANCOUVER, 15 September 2002 - For the past 18 months, 44 year old Pete Geis and "Duke" worked the streets of Fairfax County, Virginia. They depended on each other for backup in dangerous situations. "Duke" is a 4-year-old German shepherd, and Pete has a distinguished 20-year police service record. Decorated and awarded citations for bravery, Geis reached the rank of Master Police Officer and he also worked as a Deputy US Marshal.
During his career as a police officer, Pete had served for 9 years as a part of a K-9 team, and the department had allowed him to keep his first dog "Cuda" who still lives with the Geis family. The Geis family pays for all of his food and veterinary bills, which have been increasing recently because "Cuda" has cancer. In the past, the Fairfax County Police Department, had allowed other officers to take their dogs with them.
Partners in a K-9 team, "Duke" and Pete Geis served their community faithfully, and they were inseparable - that is until Pete handed in his retirement papers to work as a Criminal Justice Instructor for the Fairfax County Schools. That's when Pete, his 35-year-old wife Julie, and their three small children, got the shock of their lives: when they learned that "Duke" would not be allowed to leave the department and return home to his family.
Now "Duke" and the Geis family are at the center of what is shaping up to be an important case of whether or not a dog is simply a piece of property, according to Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director of The Humane Society of Canada, who has agreed to try and reunite this family.
"Duke is not an M-16 or a Harley Davidson. He's not just another piece of police hardware that you put away at the end of your shift," said O'Sullivan, a father with two small children of his own, and a houseful of dogs and cats.
"Pets are living breathing creatures with feelings. They form powerful emotional relationships with other family members," said O'Sullivan. Like the bond between Pete and Julie's three young children, Pierre Junior aged 8, Nicole aged 6 and Daniel aged 4. "Duke" also got along well the other four legged members of the Geis family: "Cuda", a 10 year old German Shepherd and a retired K-9, "Buster", a 6 year old German Shepherd and "Hobie", an 8 year old Blue Merle Sheltie.
The Geis family even took the extraordinary step of offering to pay USD $3, 000 to the police department to purchase Duke, they then offered to secure another trained dog to replace "Duke", but the police department flatly refused, citing down-time and additional expenses involved in training a new dog.
"Two other handlers who had less time working in the K-9 section than Pete Geis are being allowed to keep their dogs. From everything we've learned so far, in our opinion, this is nothing more than a personality conflict. And in our view, it's cruel and unusual punishment to make Duke and his family pay the price," said O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan says that both he and the Geis family tried to go through normal channels to secure the release of "Duke", but that two key decision makers, Police Chief, Colonel J. Thomas Manger, and Board of Supervisor's Chairperson Kate Hanley, refused to speak with them or even return their calls. O'Sullivan says he did receive a call from a Major Mike LoMonaco of the Fairfax County Police Department, who was polite, but firm. He said that even though the police department encouraged their officers to make their K-9 dogs a part of their family - LoMonaco said the chances of "Duke" being released from service so that he could be reunited with the Geis family were slim and none.
"We've exhausted all other channels, and in our view, Police Chief Manger and Chairperson Hanley have relied on very bad advice from their subordinates, who in our view, are the only people left to blame for this situation. If I were a member of the Board of Supervisors, or a taxpayer in Fairfax County, I'd be on the phone and sending letters, emails and faxes demanding to know why they were wasting my hard earned tax dollars to keep a family apart," said O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan said that he is aware of at least three cases in the United States that have ruled on the subject of pets as property, and that he is confident that the Geis family’s argument will eventually win out against the department because the weight of public opinion and the law is on their side.
Surveys have shown that 6 out of 10 homes have pets, and O'Sullivan said: "If you have ever looked into the eyes of an animal, and with a simple act of kindness, been rewarded by a gentle nuzzle, or a contented sigh or a whimper, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. "Duke" belongs with his family, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that he makes it back home," said O'Sullivan.
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[A father with two small children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, O'Sullivan has worked in Canada and in over 85 countries during the last 30 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, livestock, lab animals and the environment. They carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, fund scientific research, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
- 2000 Letter of Commendation for Superior Performance, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1998 Distinguished Safe Driving Award: 15 years, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1997 Lapel pin awarded for 1987 nomination of Valor Award, Fairfax County Police Department.
- 1997 Valor Award for Life Saving, Fairfax County Police Department.
- 1996 Commendation, Apprehension in the Jonathon Hall Murder Case, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1996 Letter of Recognition, Apprehension of a Dangerous Fugitive, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1996 Commendation, Exemplary Performance of Duty, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1995 Commendation, Apprehension of a Wanted Felon, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1989 District Commendation, Outstanding and Exemplary Performance, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1988 Certificate of Appreciation, US Marshals Service, Assistance in apprehending "US Marshals 15 Most Wanted" fugitive
- 1988 Commendation, Life Saving, US Marshals Service
- 1987 Nomination for Valor Award, Fairfax County Police Dept.
- 1985 Commendation, Security Detail for Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales, Fairfax County Police Dept.