K-9 Pyro cleared to return to work 2 weeks after suffering 'horrific' injuries in stabbing on duty

GREEN BAY -- Green Bay K-9 Officer Pyro was given the all-clear to return to work, police announced Monday, April 22. During a news conference Monday, Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith welcomed Pyro back to work after he was stabbed in the neck while on duty on April 7 -- suffering "horrific" injuries while apprehending a suspect who attempted to shoot his father.

Pyro required emergency surgeries after he was stabbed at least three times in the neck. Officers were very concerned he would die.

Police said Pyro's handler, Officer Scott Salzmann very quickly provided immediate life-saving measures, including the use of a hemostatic (rapid clotting) agent. These actions were made possible by Officer Salzmann having a K-9 trauma medical kit. Pyro was then rushed to Bay East Animal Hospital where he received additional treatment from Dr. Margaret Eastman, who then accompanied Pyro in an ambulance to the Animal Referral Center of the Fox Valley for emergency surgeries. Pyro had to undergo multiple surgeries to repair nasty wounds to his neck, carotid artery, and esophagus, and also had to undergo emergency surgery to repair a flipped stomach.

Chief Smith said Monday Pyro was cleared to perform light tasks that don't require him to wear a collar, which he cannot wear due to his injuries. He'll take part in duties like sniffing for drugs, and will wear a harness while veterinarians keep a close eye on his healing esophagus.

The announcement was great news for Pyro, who is happiest when he's in his patrol car -- or on duty.

"His capabilities are 110 percent," said Sue Leonard of the Fox Valley Animal Referral Center, which treated Pyro. "Physically he is extremely strong, emotionally, he didn’t know why he couldn’t go back to work that second day. But really, we know that he still has some healing to do, so ultimately he won’t have any permanent repercussions from this, which is really amazing."

Leonard said Pyro may need an additional surgery on his esophagus in the future.

Pyro on April 15 cleared a major medical hurdle and was sent home from the hospital to be with his handler, Officer Scott Salzmann and his family. On Thursday, April 18, he was able to briefly visit police officers at the station.

The community has been supportive of Pyro's recovery. GoFundMe pages have raised thousands of dollars to help with Pyro's medical bills, including a fundraising event held at Bark and Brew in Suamico.

Smith said when the stabbing occurred, the police department's K-9 donations fund had $8.13 in it. Now, it is more than $20,000.

Chief Smith said the money may be used to keep enough K-9 trauma kits stocked in all supervisors' squads and having Narcan available for drug-sniffing dogs. Additionally, he said he would like to offer each K-9 a preventative surgery that attaches their stomachs to their abdominal walls -- preventing stomach twisting, which Pyro almost died from after the stabbing.

“In addition to being one tough dog, Pyro was also blessed to have a quick thinking handler, a trauma kit, ambulance transport, and excellent emergency veterinary care. If any one of those components would have been missing, Pyro likely would not have survived," said Chief Smith in a news release.

A competency exam was requested on April 17 for the man accused of stabbing Pyro.

Sai Vang, 30, faces three charges, including a felony charge of causing injury to a police animal.

During questioning, Vang repeatedly apologized for stabbing Pyro but said “he stabbed the dog on instinct, because he is scared of dogs,” the criminal complaint stated.