Trainee Customs dog handler claims he was forced out for refusing to 'be cruel'

A FORMER trainee dog handler has told an employment tribunal that he was bullied for refusing to be 'cruel' to his dog.

Trainee Customs dog handler claims he was forced out for refusing to 'be cruel'

David Ormsby was dismissed from the Customs and Immigration Service last year because they deemed him incapable of handling a dog and claimed that he treated the animal more as a pet than as a working dog, the tribunal heard.

However, Mr Ormsby, who claims that he was unfairly dismissed, told the Jersey Employment Tribunal yesterday that he knew that it was a working sniffer dog which was meant to search for drugs and although he treated the animal humanely he did not regard it as a pet.

'Another time, the trainer grabbed my dog and twisted its collar and forced his head onto the ground.'

Mr Ormsby, who at the time of his dismissal was midway through a training programme to become a licensed Customs dog handler, claimed that he was 'set up to fail' the course by senior Customs officers.

He added that he had felt bullied by other dog handlers and trainers stating that they submitted 'overly negative reports' about his progress on the course and said that there was 'a campaign to remove me from the course' because he spoke against their methods.

Mr Ormsby also claimed that there had been a breach of contract when he was dismissed.

Although Tara Family, the lawyer for the States Employment Board representing Customs, admitted that the terms within the contract were 'ambiguous', the tribunal dismissed the breach of contract claim.

However, the unfair dismissal claim remains open.

Steven Austin-Vautier, former chief executive of the Home Affairs Department which oversees Customs, said that dismissing Mr Ormsby was the right thing to do and entirely legitimate.

He said that Mr Ormsby, who was given permission to keep his dog at home, was given the opportunity to find another job elsewhere within the civil service, but that he did not engage with the redeployment programme.

Meanwhile, Paul Ecobichon, Mr Ormsby's line manager, said that Mr Ormsby treated the dog more as a pet which had an affect on his ability to perform as a sniffer dog.

He also said that reports by dog handling experts had said that Mr Ormsby 'did not have the skill set required' to become a licensed handler.

'It was felt that it was more comfortable in the house and that it didn't want to come to work anymore.'

The employment tribunal, which was led by deputy chair Hillary Griffin, is due to make a decision as to whether Mr Ormsby was unfairly dismissed within the next four weeks.

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