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Police dog attack liability

California law enforcement and emergency services agencies are increasingly incorporating K-9 units into their ranks. Police dogs, for instance, are used in a number of different scenarios and capacities to apprehend criminal offenders and protect the public. The intense behavioral screening and training that police dogs undergo does not ensure that the animals do not make mistakes and/or become aggressive under inappropriate circumstances. Therefore, it is important that the public understands when and how a police dog attack can become a personal injury incident.

No matter how well they are trained to follow commands, the truth of the matter is that police dogs are aggressive animals. They are trained to respond to volatile situations quickly and neutralize threats of violence by overtaking criminal suspects in many cases. As a result, police dogs can misinterpret situations and signals, and act out at inappropriate times.

NBC Los Angeles recently reported on a police dog attack involving a four-year-old boy, and noted that the violent incident occurred in the dog’s home setting. Given that the possibility of a police dog hurting an innocent person is very real, under what circumstances can a K-9 police officer or agency be held liable for a dog attack?

According to California Civil Code, a police or government agency is not liable for dog bite injuries as long as the animal was insisting in implementing the law. However, the law enforcement agency must be using the animal appropriately and within the bounds of a written policy. It is also important to note that police dog aggression against individuals who are not party to any criminal investigation or apprehension can be subject to scrutiny in many cases.

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