OSLO, Norway – Police dogs in Norway are finally getting the respect they deserve.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that they are public servants, making an assault on a police dog as serious as an attack on any police officer.
The precedent-setting case centered on a police dog named Casper attacked while on duty.
In May 2007, in the western city of Bergen, a 29-year-old man was caught breaking into an apartment. When police tried to arrest him, the man fled. But Casper gave chase — and collared the suspect.
In his effort to escape, the suspect, whose name was not reported, began kicking and punching the dog. Casper did his duty, though, and succeeded in holding the man until human officers handcuffed him.
The man was charged not only for the break-in, but also with assaulting a police officer — in this case, Casper.
Two lower courts dismissed the assault charge, saying the offense only applied to human officers.
But the high court sent the case back to the lower court courts Thursday with instructions on how to interpret the law properly.
"The Supreme Court finds that the concept of assault must also be used to cover assault on a police dog that is being used to help the police," said court ruled. "An attack on a police dog must be judged on the same basis as an attack on a public servant."
Police Prosecutor Elisabeth Deinboll said she was pleased with the ruling.
"Police dogs work on orders from police officers, so violence against a police dog is the same as violence against an officer," she was quoted as telling Norway's largest newspaper, Verdens Gang.
No date has been set for a new trial in the lower court.