New judge to oversee animal unit

Officer Sherry Hicks was appointed to the Vicious and Dangerous Animals Unit, where she will be the judge who decides whether dogs are too vicious to live or just need extra oversight.

She replaces Sgt. Bill Herndon, who had the job for more than a decade. He stepped down from his post and was officially replaced Wednesday. Herndon retired about a year earlier than expected after 19 years of working with the Police Department.

The two-officer animal unit was supposed to explain its role to the Police Commission at its regular meeting Thursday night, but instead Herndon retired and commissioners met with Hicks.

Hicks had already been working for about a week with Herndon and his longtime partner, Officer John Denny, who investigates vicious animal reports before bringing them to court every Thursday.

“It was like baptism by fire,” Denny said. “I already knew her by reputation.”

The positions of Denny and Herndon were bumped to full-time about 10 years ago, after the much-publicized fatal dog mauling of Dianne Whipple.

Denny and Hicks will continue their full-time positions serving the unit and their court hearings every Thursday in City Hall.

Denny said he has about five years left before he considers retiring.

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