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Liability for injuries from law enforcement K-9 attacks

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2020 | Personal Injury

Pennsylvania law holds dangerous dog owners strictly liable for injuries and damages caused by their canines. Whether a human, another animal or someone’s property suffers harm, dog owners generally must provide compensation for recovery.

When a K-9 dog trained and handled by law enforcement officials attacks an innocent individual, a local government agency may be liable for damages. As reported by ScienceDirect, canines typically attack the lower extremities, and law enforcement K-9s result in 1.1% of all visits to an emergency room seeking treatment for a dog bite.

Legitimate duty to bite or attack

Trained canines can use reasonable force to apprehend, bite and detain a justifiable suspect engaged in carrying out a crime. A K-9 usually responds to its handler’s instructions to pursue, attack or hold a suspect during an arrest. A law enforcement official may instruct it to chase, detain or restrain a suspect from taking further action.

The K-9’s handler, however, does not have the authority to instruct a dog to chase or attack an innocent individual. If an officer negligently releases a canine on an individual who is not carrying out an unlawful activity, a legal action may provide a remedy for any serious injuries sustained.

Pennsylvania resident injured by K-9 attack

During an emergency response call, law enforcement officials entered the home of a 35-year-old Keystone State resident to investigate a burglary. Once inside, however, they discovered the blind resident sleeping in his room, naked and confused.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a handler unleashed his K-9 and purportedly encouraged it to attack the man. When the man lifted his arm to cover his face, the German shepherd bit it and then bit his right thigh. The officers then placed the individual under arrest for further questioning. When his roommate arrived and verified that the injured man lived there, the officers released him and he went to an emergency room to treat his serious injuries.

The canine reportedly caused the man excruciating pain and profuse bleeding. His legal action requested compensatory damages for medical expenses, physical pain and severe emotional distress.