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Are the Police Liable for Police Dog Bites?

Are the Police Liable for Police Dog Bites?

One cop shooting another cop’s dog.

That’s the news out of San Clemente, where an off-duty Sheriff’s Deputy killed his neighbor’s pit-bull after the animal attacked the Deputy’s son.  The neighbor and pit-bull owner is an officer with the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP Officer’s dog was not on duty, but it raises an interesting question:  Are the police liable when an on-duty, police dog bites or attacks someone?

The answer can be found in the Civil Code.

Section 3342 imposes strict liability on the owner of any dog that bites or injures another person.

But the Code provides some exceptions when police or military dogs bite someone.  These exceptions include:

1. If the dog is defending itself from annoying or harassing behavior.

2.  The dog is assisting the law enforcement or military officer in a) apprehending a crime suspect; b) investigating a crime; c) executing a warrant; d) defending a peace officer or other person.

These exceptions, however, are only applicable when the military or law enforcement agency has adopted a written policy for the appropriate use of the dog in performing any of the above-listed activities.

They also do not apply when the dog-bite victim is not  a suspect or did not participate in the activity that necessitated the use of the police dog.

Based on this, the police are likely immune when a police dog bites a crime suspect.  But if the dog attacks an unrelated party or innocent bystander, these exceptions likely do not apply and the police could be liable.

As with most cases, if you were attacked by a police or other dog, you should immediately discuss your rights with an attorney.

For questions about your case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6!