People say, “a dog is a man’s best friend”, but to Police Constable Steve Balice his K9 partner, Lonca, is much more. Lonca, a two-year-old German Shepherd, is a relatively new addition to the Toronto Police Service Canine Unit. Despite his youth, Lonca has distinguished himself as a highly determined and brave police dog, qualities that helped him, without hesitation or regard for his own well-being, protect a community, his fellow officers and his partner, one fateful night.
Late in the evening on November 23, 2015, the Toronto Police Service executed a search warrant at a residential address. Their goal was to locate evidence and suspects connected to criminal activity. While the Emergency Task Force (ETF) prepared to enter the front of the building, Lonca and Steve were stationed at the rear of the premises, to prevent any suspects from fleeing.
As the ETF breached the front door, Steve saw a man run from the building, armed with what appeared to be a weapon. He was headed towards the officers out front. Fearing for their safety, Steve warned the suspect to stop or he would release his police dog. But despite Steve’s numerous warnings, the man continued running. Concluding that both the officers and the suspect would be in grave danger if a confrontation occurred, Steve deployed Lonca. Lonca ran after the man, grabbed hold of his leg and brought him to the ground. Still the suspect refused to surrender. Getting to his feet, the man began to fight back, violently striking Lonca. As Steve caught up to them, he was faced with a sight that no K9 team would ever want to see – the man was hitting Lonca with a large machete.
Lonca was struck many times in the head, neck and body, but despite his injuries, he remained focused and on-task. In the ensuing struggle, Lonca positioned himself between the suspect and the officers, preventing anyone from being harmed. At the same time, Steve continued yelling at the man, ordering him to give up and drop the machete. Lonca and Steve’s joint effort finally convinced the suspect to surrender. He dropped the machete and was successfully taken into custody.
Displaying focus beyond his years, Lonca refused to rest until he knew his job was done. Blood streaming from his mouth, he led Steve back to the rear of the premises where a loud commotion was taking place. There, they encountered a second suspect, a female, who had fled the building and was struggling with the ETF officers. Lonca began to bark at the suspect, deterring her from running and contributed to her eventual surrender. With the situation under control, Steve rushed Lonca to the emergency veterinary hospital to tend to his injuries. Lonca received five stitches to his face and two staples to his front left paw. Lonca’s bravery and determination, even in the face of danger, contributed to the safe resolution of the situation for officers and suspects alike.
The suspect who attacked Lonca is the first in Canada to be charged under Quanto’s Law, which came into effect in July 2015.This new legislation serves to better protect law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals and ensure that offenders who harm those animals are held fully accountable. Quanto’s Law was named after the Edmonton police dog that was stabbed to death while chasing down a suspect in a parking lot. Quanto was inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame in 2014.