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Law Enforcement Canine Use-of-Force Research

Proper entry position for a building search - photo by Ed Frawley

Mike Brave is an expert on "Use of Force" issues, both with and without a canine. He is also a lawyer that works for the US Department of Justice. Mike has his own web site Mike can be reached at:

This section of canine law was done in 1995. It will be updated shortly with information for 89 new canine legal cases.

Canine - Law Enforcement Use-of-Force Cases:

A. Federal Circuit Cases:

B. Federal District Court Cases:

C. State Court Canine Use-of-Force Cases:

D. Miscellaneous Canine Cases -Cases Where Canine Bit, But Are NOT Use-of-Force (Per Se) Cases:

E. Canines Used in Robberies and/or Assaults - Canine Construed as "deadly weapon" or "dangerous instrumentality":

  1. Canine Used to Commit Armed Robbery:
    1. First degree robbery (equivalent to aggravated robbery) - the defendant used a German Shepherd in the course of a robbery. The dog was found to be a "dangerous instrument", but not a "deadly weapon". The dog was not held to be a "deadly weapon" because under New York statutes a "deadly weapon" is basically defined as a firearm only. People v. Torrez, 86 Misc2d 369, 382 N.Y.2d 233 (1976).
    2. Armed robbery with a canine - the appellate court ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find the dog was a "dangerous weapon" within the armed robbery statute. The court stated a four (4) part test to determine whether an instrument, which is not designed to produce death or serious bodily injury, is a dangerous weapon: (1) whether the instrument under the control of the accused had apparent ability to inflict harm, (2) whether the victim reasonably perceives it as having that capability, (3) whether the instrument reasonably appears capable of inflicting bodily harm, and (4) whether the accused intended, by using the instrument, to elicit fear to further the robbery. Commonwealth v. Tarrant, 367 Mass. 411, 326 N.E.2d 710 (Mass. 1975).

  2. Canine Used to Commit Assault/Battery:
    1. Assault & Battery of a Police Officer:
      1. State (of Kansas) v. Bowers, 721 P.2d 268 (Kan. 1986) - A person used two Dobermans to attack a police officer. Under Kansas statutes the use of the canines was the use of a "dangerous instrumentality."
        1. "It may be said a Doberman pinscher is not a deadly weapon per se, but an ordinary object used in a deadly manner is a deadly weapon within the meaning of K.S.A. 21-3414(c). The evidence discloses the Dobermans were used in a manner where by great bodily harm could be inflicted. This was a fact question which the trial court properly submitted to the jury." Bowers, page 274.
    2. Assault & Battery - Not of a Police Officer:
      1. Aggravated battery with a canine - see 7 A.L.R.4th 607, 608
      2. Assault with a dangerous weapon - (German Shepherd) - the appellate court ruled a dog may be a dangerous weapon within the Michigan aggravated assault statute, stating the statute defining "dangerous weapon," is broad and includes any object which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. People v. Kay, 121 Mich.App. 438, 328 N.W.2d 424 (Mich.App. 1982).
      3. Aggravated assault with a canine when the canine did NOT bite - "Whether or not the Doberman pinscher actually bit Mr. Carlisle, the evidence in this case is sufficient to authorize the trial judge to find that, as used, appellant's hands and feet and his use of the dog were deadly weapons." Michael v. State, 160 Ga. App. 48, 286 S.E.2d 314 (1981).
      4. Assault with an offensive weapon - New Jersey appellate court ruled that under the facts of the case the defendant's dog was a deadly weapon. Interest of J.R., 165 N.J.Super. 346, 398 A.2d 150 (N.J.Super. 1979).

F. Wisconsin Statutes - Canine Related:

  1. Wisconsin Statute§174.02 Owner's liability for damage caused by dog; penalties; court order to kill dog (1) Liability for injury.
    1. Without notice. Subject to§895.045 [Contributory negligence], the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, livestock, or property.

    2. After notice. Subject to§895.045 [Contributory negligence], the owner of a dog is liable for 2 times the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, livestock, or property if the owner was notified or knew that the dog previously injured or caused injury to a person, livestock, or property.

G. Wisconsin P.O.S.T. Guidance:

  1. The State of Wisconsin Department of Justice has established the following definition of "deadly force" as it pertains to a law enforcement officer. See letter to Chiefs, Sheriffs and Police Administrators dated November 24, 1992, signed by Pierce T. Purcell, Assistant Attorney General.

    "... Our position is that the definition of deadly force in Wisconsin, in a police setting, is the use of any means or instrumentality intended to or likely to cause death.

    Our definition of when an officer may use deadly force is that deadly force may be used when the officer reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or to others." ...

H. Canine - Treatises Research:

  1. General Canine Information:
    1. Dogs, "Law Enforcement Legal Defense Manual", pages 28 - 33, Brief 79-5
    2. Knowledge of animal's vicious propensities, 13 Am Jur Proof of Facts 2d 473
    3. Aggravated battery with a canine - see 7 A.L.R.4th 607, 608
    4. Marner, Lynn, "Comment:: The New Breed of Municipal Dog Control Laws: Are They Constitutional?", 53 University of Cincinnati Law Review 1067 (Westlaw 53 UCINLR 1067), 1984.
    5. Sullivan, Sallyanne K., "Special Section: Vicious-Dog Legislation -- Controlling the 'Pit Bull' Banning the Pit Bull: Why Breed--Specific Legislation is Constitutional," 13 University of Dayton Law Review 279 (Westlaw 13 UDTNLR 279), Winter 1988.
    6. Thorne, Julie A., "Note: If Spot Bites the Neighbor, Should Dick and Jane Go To Jail?", 39 Syracuse Law Review 1445 (Westlaw 39 SYRLR 1445), 1988.
  2. Canine - Use of Force:
    1. Dell, Louis P., Comment, "Police Attack Dogs: A Dogmatic Approach to Crime Control", 13 Whittier Law Review 515 (Westlaw 13 WTLR 515), (1992).
    2. Liability, under 42 USCS section 1983, for injury inflicted by dogs under control or direction of police, 102 ALR Fed. 616.
    3. Modern status of rule of absolute or strict liability for dog bite. 51 ALR4th 446.
    4. Liability of owner of dog known by him to be vicious for injuries to trespasser. 64 ALR3d 1039.
  3. Canine - Narcotics Detection:
    1. Use of trained dog to detect narcotics or drugs as unreasonable search in violation of Fourth Amendment, 31 ALR Fed. 931.
  4. Dog Scent Lineups:
    1. Taslitz, Andrew E., "A Practitioner's Guide to Dog Scent Lineups", Criminal Law Bulletin, pages 218-255.
    2. Taslitz, Andrew E., "Does the Cold Nose Know? The Unscientific Myth of the Dog Scent Lineup," 42 Hastings Law Review 15 (Westlaw 42 HSTLJ 15), November 1990.
    3. Annot., "Dog Scent Discrimination Lineups", 63 A.L.R.4th 143 (1988 & 1990)

I. Miscellaneous Canine Related Research:

  1. Pozner, Larry S., "Preparing for the Narc or Try Cops ... Not Clients."

J. Miscellaneous

    For More Information Contact:

    All Material Copyright © 1996 LAAW International, Inc.
    (Liability Assessment & Awareness International, Inc.)
    Michael A. Brave, J.D., M.S., C.P.S., C.S.T., President
    P.O. Box 1124
    Eau Claire, WI 54702-1124

    Phone (715) 833-1125
    Fax (715) 833-1413

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