06/11/2015 03:16 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Cat recovering after brutal attack by police dog

A family cat was badly injured by a police dog that broke free from its trainer at a school near Dufferin Street and Dundas Street West.

Aidan Moreau-MacLeod said his family came home on the evening of June 4 to find his cat McGuire critically injured, with large puncture wounds on its back. McGuire, an 18-year-old house cat who only occasionally goes outside, went into emergency treatment at Yonge-Davenport Pet Hospital around 10 p.m. that night.

No one knew exactly what happened to the feline — until the next day when the 25-year-old Moreau-MacLeod was approached by members of a landscaping crew working nearby who had witnessed the attack.

Moreau-MacLeod's house backs onto an alley, and there is a school across the alley. In the vacant schoolyard, he learned, police were training dogs.

One of the dogs spotted the cat, escaped from its trainer and attacked the cat, according to the landscapers. Police did not deny that version of events, said Moreau-MacLeod.

"It happened in the alley just steps outside the back gate," Moreau-MacLeod said, standing in his alley.

McGuire's vet bills exceeded $2,000 and the Toronto police have agreed to cover the costs.

Meanwhile, Moreau-MacLeod says McGuire is steadily improving — purring and eating more every day — but he is unsettled at the idea a police dog could attack his pet.

"I was taken aback by the fact it was happening in such a dense area. It was shocking to me," he said, calling it irresponsible of police.

"Once a dog enters a residential area like ours, it should already be perfectly trained."

Police call attack 'unfortunate'

Staff Sgr. James Hung of the Police Dog Services said the animals must train in the same areas they will one day patrol. 

"Our dogs are chosen, and first criteria is that they have to be social with people," he said, downplaying fears a dog could bite a human. "Any dogs that are aggressive, we don't take."

Hung said police dogs are not screened for any behaviour toward other animals.

"We've never had a dog bite a person accidentally," he said. "Sometimes a dog sees other animals and it's instinctive that they'll chase it."

Police say the dog and its trainer are in the midst of a 15-week training program and will continue that training despite the "unfortunate" attack.