Dutchess Officer’s Violent Dog Attack Inspires New Legislation
After being mauled by vicious dogs in the line of duty, a local officer found out that the county did not have her back.
Michele Pfeil, a 29-year veteran of the Dutchess County Probation Department, suffered near-fatal wounds after becoming the target of two attack dogs. Officer Pfeil was in the Town of Milan checking in on a probationer when she was attacked by two Great Danes that were trained as attack dogs. As she exited the car to follow up on the electronic monitoring of a probationer she was knocked down by the dogs which ripped through her arms, legs, shoulder and abdomen.
Unable to reach her firearm, Pfeil barely escaped by crawling back into her car and releasing the brake so she could coast down the driveway to a firehouse across the street. The probation officer's quick thinking saved her life. After calling for help on the radio, first responders were able to stop Pfeil's bleeding while rushing her to the hospital. The officer was then transported to Albany Medical Center to treat her near-fatal blood loss
No charges were filed in the incident because it was ruled that the dogs "did what they were trained to do." If that wasn't frustrating enough, Pfeil then found out that her injuries put her retirement at risk.
Because Officer Pfeil had to use all of her benefit time and worker's comp while recovering from her injuries, the probation officer's time towards retirement was no longer being accumulated. This put Pfeil six months short of eligibility for full retirement. The injured officer was given the choice of returning to her full-time position while working through her physical and emotional pain or being penalized for not completing the final few months of work before retirement, reducing her hard-earned pension.
It turns out that the current law does not cover probation officers the same way it does other peace officers. When injured on the job, officers are guaranteed full pay, benefits, medical and hospitalization coverage. The law also applies recovery time towards retirement requirements. None of these things, however, are eligible for probation officers who are injured on the job.
Dutchess County lawmakers are now pushing to make sure something like this never happens again. Ten Dutchess County legislators have proposed a bill that would adjust the law to make sure that probation officers receive the same protection as other members of law enforcement.
Officer Pfeil, who is still recovering from her injuries said, "Just like police and other law enforcement, probation officers face criminals every day—sometimes alone and unarmed. They need the same protections as anyone does, who is dedicating his or her life to keeping the public safe."
If put on the agenda, the resolution will be discussed in committee on February 6.