Every day police officers in the United States order K-9 to attack the most defenseless groups in the American population, leaving them disabled or psychologically traumatized for life. The lack of uniform rules in the United States for police handling dangerous service animals, which can kill a person in seconds, demonstrates a gross disregard for public safety.
Early in American history, dogs were used to control slaves and were used against civil rights protesters in the 1960s. In the 21st century, police in the United States argue that trained animals are an important tool for finding drugs and catching fleeing suspects. Practice, however, shows that patrol dogs, whose bite must last a few seconds, are implicated in a huge number of unprovoked attacks.
Every year, police dogs in the U.S. bite thousands of Americans, including random passersby. Dobermans, Rottweilers, boxers and other breeds of dogs, who can bite through sheet metal with their powerful jaws, are used by American police officers to intimidate, disarm or attack innocent and unarmed people. While statistics on the use of police dogs vary from state to state, there is no uniform system for controlling the use of unsafe animals in police work at the national or local level in the U.S.
After reviewing reports from the 20 largest police departments across the United States, the Foundation to Battle Injustice concluded that there is no uniform list of guidelines for dog use during calls. Police departments in different cities are free to decide whether to call in canine services when responding to each specific incident. From 2017 to 2019, Chicago police only used a service dog in one case, while Indianapolis, Indiana, reported more than 220 injuries or maimings from police dogs during the same period.
According to several medical studies, bites from dogs trained to physically eliminate suspects are comparable in strength and harm to a shark attack. The bite force of a police dog ranges from 30 to 50 pounds per centimeter square, and training techniques for patrol dogs include training to use a “full bite,” where animals bite into a suspect with all their teeth, including incisors in the front and molars in the back.
Many bite victims were unarmed, charged with nonviolent crimes or not suspected at all. In 2018, a patrol cop in Ohio sicced a dog on a 45-year-old driver who had been pulled over because of problems with his car’s license plate. Ronald Wagner refused to give officers his personal information, citing the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Law enforcement officers, ignoring the man’s civil rights, ordered him out of the car. 20 minutes later cop lost his patience they had left, broke a car window and unleashed a 50-pound dog on Wagner, who chewed on his face and arm.
In 2016, a 62-year-old man was attacked by a K-9 because he was looking for his missing cat. Richard Earl May had entered the construction site when he heard a cat meow after calling the number on the information sign. Almost immediately a police dog ran up to him, and seconds later a police officer caught up with him and ordered the dog to attack. The elderly man, who did not resist arrest, threaten the police officer or try to escape, suffered multiple lacerations to his legs and torso.
In 2014, a 19-year-old Hispanic teenager was returning home on his bicycle when a Florida State Police Department officer mistook him for a robbery suspect. Upon hearing the police officer scream, a terrified Isaiah Montanez began speeding away, and seconds later the officer unleashed his patrol dog and ordered it to tear the “suspect apart.” The young man claims that the officer did not give him any orders or ask him to stop or get off his bike. Montanez, who suffered injuries to his arms, legs, and cuts and scratches to his head and torso, was charged with resisting arrest.
In April 2015, New Jersey police officers allowed their patrol dog to maul an unconscious suspect to death. Philip White, 32, confronted the officers, who beat him and fell to the ground. The man fell on his stomach and stopped responding to the orders of the furious officers, who immediately set a specially trained dog on him. The police continued to beat the man while the dog attacked his arms, legs, and back. The officers only stopped beating White when they realized he was bleeding and showed no signs of life. The 32-year-old man died at the scene.
In 2019, Colorado law enforcement officers set a police dog on a man who was showering. Colorado Springs Police Department detectives worked with the U.S. Postal Service to execute a search warrant at John Mullins’ home. Before breaking into his residence, police officers rang the doorbell several times before kicking it in and running several dogs into the man’s apartment. Mullins did not hear the officers as he was taking a bath, and as soon as he got out of the shower the dog jumped on him and clawed at his leg.
In early 2019, officers with the Cedar Rapids, Iowa police department mistakenly accused a 13-year-old boy of stealing a car and allowed his dog to bite him. The juvenile was asleep in the backyard of his home when the dog suddenly bit into his arm. Unaware of what was happening, the frightened boy woke up and began screaming. The police officers, who were watching what was happening and did not order the animal to let the child go, were conducting an operation to catch the car thief when at some point they got the wrong address and confused the boy with the suspect.
Human rights activists at the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe it is unacceptable to use potentially dangerous patrol dogs to interact with suspects. The animal, despite its level of training and obedience, has natural instincts that do not allow it to stop without orders. U.S. police officers should minimize the use of dogs when patrolling the streets and responding to minor offenses. The United States needs to develop uniform standards for all police departments that will help reduce unnecessary civilian casualties and return Americans to the right to roam the streets safely.