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K-9 handlers sue county for unpaid overtime hours caring for dogs

Texas readers may be aware of the use of K-9 dogs in the police department to help officers with searches and locating evidence at crime scenes. Not just anyone can handle these police dogs, and they require special training and treatment by certified handlers. When officers are done for the day, these dogs still have needs that must be met. A group of canine handlers from another state have filed a federal lawsuit against the county sheriff, his office and the county commission for overtime hours that they feel they deserve.

The department has four certified handlers, three of which are participating in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs allege that they were required to tend to the dogs when they were off duty. The dogs were kept at the houses of the plaintiffs, and the officers would care for the dogs by feeding, transporting, training, exercising and grooming them.

The plaintiffs allege that the duties they performed were necessary to taking care of the dogs, and they had no choice but to do them. They believe that this work should be compensated, and the overtime should be paid. These duties were performed when the plaintiffs were finished with work for the day, and they claim this equated to approximately four and a half hours of additional work per week.

The plaintiffs claim that their supervisor -- the Sheriff-- had quite a bit of control of the terms and conditions of their employment. The Sheriff contends that he is only abiding by the policies and procedures that were created by one of the plaintiff's, who is a ranking official of the state Police Canine Association. The county avows that it was acting in good faith and disagrees that it has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employees in Texas and elsewhere sacrifice their time when they work over 40 hours per week, and they expect to be compensated. If these overtime hours are not paid, the workers can consider seeking legal advice on the best course of action to reclaim what they believe is owed to them.

Source: herald-dispatch.com, "K-9 handlers sue boss, commission", Curtis Johnson, Aug. 22, 2015

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