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CA Dept. K9 Handler Suing City Over Lack of Compensation

CA Dept. K9 Handler Suing City Over Lack of Compensation

Officer Rebecca Rosenblatt has a new partner in Reese, the new K-9 officer of the Millbrae Police Department, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007. The Millbrae Community Foundation helped facilitate the buying the German Shepard with money from an anonymous gift. [

San Jose Mercury News via YellowBrix

April 26, 2011

MILBRAE, CA – The Millbrae Police Department’s only canine handler is suing the city in federal court on allegations she hasn’t been paid for the time she spends taking care of the dog while off duty.

Officer Rebecca Rosenblatt alleges that federal labor law obliges Millbrae to compensate her for the time — at least 3 ½ hours per week — but failed to do so. The amount of pay owed for the “care and maintenance” of police dog Reese could reach $80,000, her attorney, Dale Nowicki, said. The officer has asked for a jury trial.

The city has received the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, but city officials declined to comment.

Reese, a German shepherd, lives with Rosenblatt, and his bathing and feeding are her responsibility whether or not the officer is on the clock. According to the complaint, the Fair Labor Standards Act says a handler must be paid overtime for the dog’s maintenance.

Nowicki said the rules for compensation can be applied retroactively only two years into the past, or three years when there are aggravating circumstances. Rosenblatt has been with the department since 2005 and has been handling Reese since 2007, according to Millbrae’s website.

The general counsel for an international police dog training organization said Millbrae won’t win if it fights the suit.

“The city’s going to lose,” said Mark Rispoli, attorney for the 2,000-member California Narcotic Canine Association, which also has members outside of the United States. “Federal law mandates it. This is well-settled.”

He said it’s not uncommon for handlers, like teachers, to spend money out of their own pocket for dog-related expenses, and they don’t make a fuss about being reimbursed. He said those officers are aware that a pricey legal fight with the agency that employs them, along with a five- or six-figure settlement, could spell the end for that agency’s canine program.

“You can win the battle and lose the war,” Rispoli said.

Nowicki said his firm, as part of a separate case, is representing a handler from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office on the same issue, but officers who handle five other dogs there have declined to take part for fear of what may happen.

“Handler compensation issues cause the demise of canine units,” he added.

Rosenblatt said she tried to talk to her supervisors, but they brushed her off on the topic. She claims she also attempted to strike a bargain in order to receive some kind of compensation. But again, those efforts were unsuccessful.

The situation is very different at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, which has six canine handlers. Deputies who have a canine partner receive a 5.7 percent pay raise as well as $90 a month for care and feeding of the animal, Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Lunny said. The handlers are expected to keep their dogs with them at all times.

Rosenblatt’s attorney said the only reason his client has filed a lawsuit is the 24-hour nature of the assignment.

“If the dog wasn’t at home, this wouldn’t apply,” he said.


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    granny1

    about 3 years ago

    1448 Comments

    the dog should get an hourly wage like officers.and if the officers dont want the rest of the responseability, tranfer to another department.

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    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    Its too bad the city dropped the ball on this valuable officer and her partner; hoping she gets the full compensation. The city knew they'd be paying her the extra money & its sad she has to go through all this to get it.

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    jimmy120

    about 3 years ago

    52 Comments

    If she is entitled to it, then she should receive it. Period..

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    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    thank you benaron- that sounds like a great compromise right there. Sometimes it's not so much money. It's time and other things like that. I'm sure if they had even TRIED to work something out with her, she wouldn't of gone as far as she seems to have to go now.

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    benaron

    about 3 years ago

    246 Comments

    She'll get compensated and the city knows it, this has been an ongoing deal with K9 units around the country, but good ole government will do thier best to screw her over using that BS threat we'll just send you back to patrol instead of doing the right thing. I don't know to many officers whether it's patrol, k9 or detectives that if they worked one hour overtime 5 time a week, 20 hrs a month that would not want that OT on their check. In the future they have to compensate her if she stay in k9 and takes her partner home, but it doesn't have to be monetary compensation, our dept gives us 30 minutes off early each night to feed, clean kennels, and then 5 hours comp time each month for taking care of our partners on our days off which works out pretty well.

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    PCSO_Explorer

    about 3 years ago

    54 Comments

    That's too bad. I love the SSF/Milbrae area, and too see K9 gone would definately NOT help the crime problems they've been having lately.

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    natelp85

    about 3 years ago

    98 Comments

    We do not know her whole story. She may have no choice but to force the city to compensate due to financial constraints. The cost of living is very high if she lives in or near the city she works in.

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    delicateflower

    about 3 years ago

    6 Comments

    These particular partners are a HUGE asset to LE. They find the lost, drugs, bombs, etc... As well as become a member of the family of the handler. I hope that this doesn't cause this agency to dismantle their K-9 unit. It would be a loss for their community.

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    tremor2

    about 3 years ago

    430 Comments

    She's legally entitled to the compensation; however, in these time today, with so many PDs facing so many cuts,
    I see that PD likely eliminating their K9 program altogether. It's too bad that this officer's supervisors and her PD failed to do the right thing in the first place.

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    Irishcop1961

    about 3 years ago

    50356 Comments

    Bottom line here, it's the law and the officer deserves to be compensated.

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    cjbs2003

    about 3 years ago

    26 Comments

    Patrol is just a memo away... Don't like working a specialty because of something, well put your memo in and go back to patrol!

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    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    Ims2094- do you even know how expensive it is to take care of a K9- a police dog- not a regular dog- a K9? In all seriousiness she might be able to feed herself or have much left for herself if she is doing everything that is required for a K9, people don't last long in K9 is they don't love it. She has been doing it for 4 years already. AND SHE DOES DESERVE some extra money- it's going to the dog, the dog DESERVES IT in all actuality, and if the department had done what they should of done in the first place, she wouldn't have to be going through this. AND they wouldn't be possibly loosing their department- its not her actions- it's theirs, theyh have proven they don't know how to handle having a K9

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    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    Doesn't sound like she enjoys her job as much as she should, being a K9 officer. Is she legally entitled to the compensation? If they say she is then I guess she should get it. However, she might as well be walking around with a sign on saying, "I'm only going to take care of this K9 that I work with that could save my life IF I get paid the extra money I paid out of my pocket for dog shampoo for it." I have a dog and she's like a kid. You can't give them back or say, I'm not taking care of her unless I get something for it. If you're a dog person, you appreciate the relationship and take the good with the bad. It's a 24/7 job. I'm sure someone else would like to take her place. She has got to know by doing this, it could risk her job and risk losing the K9. I'd rather die 1st than let my dog go anywhere.

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    Whalewatcher

    about 3 years ago

    11190 Comments

    Wish the P.D. had done the right thing in the first place, but, like others have already said, this might put the Millbrae K9 unit of business. Another unintended effect of the lawsuit is she may never be considered for a K9 position again, because this or any other agency won't want to face any more lawsuits from this particular officer over the same issue.

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    Anonymous

    about 3 years ago

    anniequine... maybe she is stepping up to plate? So that other handlers that suffer silently can now be compensated. I helped and did OJT with K9 at my old base. Military you get paid nothing extra- and those guys have serious over time. Dogs are like kids, there isn't an end time. And k9 working like that can be very expensive. I don't know the situation because i'm not there, but the article said she did everything she could before taking it to court. Departments should be more helpful to their officers taking on extra workload.

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