In a recent article published by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit publication committed to addressing issues of inequality within the American criminal justice system, the problem in this country of unlawful police violence by police dog attacks was laid bare.
Some of the startling and disturbing statistics revealed in this article are that:
- Dog attacks cause more hospital visits than any other use of force by police.
- Police dog attacks have sent roughly 3600 Americans to the emergency room every year from 2005 -2013 according to a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.
- In a nine-year nationwide study of emergency room visits for police K-9 bite, 42 percent of the 33,000 bite victims were black.
- Court records show that most individuals attacked by dogs were unarmed, accused of non-violent crimes, or were not criminal suspects at all.
To summarize these sobering statistics, police dog attacks in this country occur at an alarming rate, often result in serious injury, and as with most other issues in our criminal justice system, disproportionately impact people of color.
Making matters worse, victims of unlawful police dog attacks to often face significant obstacles in their path to legal recourse for several reasons. First, federal civil rights laws generally do not protect innocent bystanders who are attacked by dogs. Two, the doctrine of qualified immunity rears its ugly head to bar even meritorious claims of excessive force by police dog attack. And three, even cases that make it to jury often fail because of what has been described as the the “Lassie effect,” which stems from juror affection for police dogs.
Despite these challenges, victims of police dog attacks should remain resolute in their efforts to seek justice. Police officers have a constitutional obligation to refrain from deploying police dogs to arrest a suspect when circumstances do not warrant such use of force. Circumstances under which an officer’s deployment of a police dog is likely unreasonable include circumstances where the criminal suspect is alleged to have committed a non-violent offense, is not fleeing or resisting arrest, or does not represent an imminent threat of serious injury or death to an officer, himself or others. If an officer orders a dog to attack under one of these circumstances, and the victim is seriously injured, the victim has the right and should pursue a legal action for excessive force under Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. A state law claim of negligence against the officer who deployed the dog may also be maintained under these circumstances.
If you feel you have been the victim of an unlawful police dog attack, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation so that we can discuss your case with you. If we take on your case, you owe us nothing unless we obtain compensation for you. The link to the article referenced above is below. Please remain safe.
We also recommend checking out the article “When Police Violence is a Dog Bite” for further insight on this subject.