FAIRFIELD — The untrained police dog that bit an officer’s infant daughter at home should not have been living near the man’s family, and those instructions were given to the officer specifically, according to the company that provided the dog.

Matt Betts, owner of the Rhode Island-based International Canine Exchange, said that the dog’s handler, Officer Jordan Brooks, was advised by multiple people not to try to integrate the dog, a nearly 2-year-old male Belgian Malinois named Rex, into his household. Instead, the dog should have been staying elsewhere, such as at a kennel, Betts said.

“Unfortunately, the handler didn’t really follow instructions at all,” Betts said.

Fairfield police Chief Tom Gould said Thursday that the department was investigating the matter and he could not comment on it. Town Manager Michelle Flewelling was not immediately available Thursday afternoon and Brooks, the dog’s handler, was not at the police station for comment either.

The town bought the dog in January from International Canine Exchange for $7,500.

Rex was originally from Croatia and was returned to the company after the bite incident, which ended the department’s short-lived canine program. Gould previously said town officials decided the town’s new canine unit program would be put on hold during an executive session the Town Council held earlier this month.

On the night of Feb. 24, the dog bit Brooks’ infant daughter around 10 p.m. in their Winslow home. The dog then was taken to the Humane Society Waterville Area and put into quarantine while the town decided what to do.

Brooks was home at the time of the incident and took his daughter to the hospital. She then was transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, which has a neonatal facility. The infant suffered puncture wounds and bruised ribs, police previously said.

Although the town decided to return to the dog to the company, Betts said this was not an indictment on the dog but rather an indication that Fairfield police were not able to find a new handler for Rex in time for appropriate training sessions.

Betts said his company was not aware Brooks had brought the dog into his home.

Typically, he said police dogs stay in a kennel at the police department. He said this is not neglect, but that a police dog should not be integrated into a family, as the dog is a police tool and is trained as such.

The dog was off duty at the time of the incident, had not gone through all its training yet, and was scheduled to attend Criminal Justice Academy K9 Patrol School earlier this month.

Deborah Palman, owner of Maine K-9 Services, which specializes in working dog training and certification for search and rescue and law enforcement, said it’s not unusual for a police dog to be kept by an officer, though the dog might not necessarily live with the family. She said the dog could be kenneled or carefully controlled, or even kenneled elsewhere.

“Often when these dogs are bought, you as a buyer might not know if they’ve been socialized with kids or brought up around kids or what the situation is,” said Palman, a certified police dog trainer at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy who retired in 2008 after 30 years service as a game warden with the Maine Warden Service.

She said it was possible the company selling the dog and the town had an arrangement under which the dog was not to be kept with the handler.

“Even well-trained patrol dogs are animals that have to be treated with respect and care,” Palman said. “They’re not pets. As we know, even pets can bite people and cause tragedies, too.”

She likened a police dog to a firearm, something that needs to be “treated with respect and be treated carefully.”

Betts said the dog is not mean or aggressive, and said it was possible the dog thought the baby was a toy.

When it was being held at the humane society, Lisa Smith, director of the Humane Society Waterville Area, described the dog as playful and agreeable.

Betts said the dog has been back with the company for about a week and would be sold to another agency. He said something like this had never happened in the past with their dogs.

“This is a first for us, getting a dog back in this manner,” Betts said.

The International Canine Exchange says on its website that it provides “the highest quality working dogs available” to police departments and other agencies. The dogs “are hand tested and selected by our staff,” the site says. “We travel to Europe, Mexico and throughout the U.S. to screen potential dogs for their prospective working situations,” while only supplying “dogs which possess the necessary drives, display sound temperament, have strong, confident nerves and dogs that are medically correct.”

The company lists 20 clients on its site, including the Maine State Police and the Augusta Police Department.

Betts said Fairfield officials have indicated they will get another dog from International Canine Exchange at some point.

While Betts said he was glad Brooks’ daughter was OK, he stressed that none of this would have happened if not for handler’s error of bringing the dog into the house.

He said it was perplexing that the officer — especially a first-time handler — would not to follow the instructions given by the company.

“We give these instructions to keep these problems from happening,” Betts said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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