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Settlement reached in police dog bite case

A man has reached a settlement agreement with a local police department over an incident in which he was attacked and injured by a police dog. The incident took place while the dog and his handler were out looking for a suspect in a crime, and the man was out walking in morning by himself. The dog was on a very long, 30-foot lead at the time of the attack, when he came over the top of a hill ahead of his handler and jumped on the man who was walking.

The injuries were generally on the man’s arm and required surgery to repair all of the damage. The settlement amount was $225,000.

This case involves a dog that has been named in other law suits over serious bite incidents. Dogs that are known to be dangerous and a threat to the public must be carefully managed and owners have a duty to take extra precautions to prevent future harm to bystanders. In this case the officer has a history of requesting the dog to track and detain people who he believes are suspects in a crime and ending up with someone with a severe injury. In another case the same officer and dog were accused of civil rights violations by a man suspected of domestic violence when the dog tracked him to the back of his home and bit him so severely that he now has a permanent limp.

Police dog bite cases are complex because in many of them, the police officer will have been deemed to have acted appropriate through use of the dog if they reasonably thought the injured person was a suspect in a crime who was evading arrest. It can be a fine line between reasonable use of force and a dog bite for which the government may be liable.

Source: Seattle Times, “Pierce County to pay $225k to police-dog bite victim,” Mike Carter, Feb. 6, 2014.

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