AB-742 Would Limit Police Dogs in California - Adamson Ahdoot

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New Bill AB-742 Proposes Limiting the Use of Police Dogs in California

April 28, 2023 María López Garcia
Home » Blog » New Bill AB-742 Proposes Limiting the Use of Police Dogs in California

The Proposal Would Prohibit the Use of Canine Units for Suspect Apprehension or Crowd Control

Dogs are one of society’s favorite pets. Today, there are some 90 million of these friendly, furry creatures scattered in communities across the country. And while the vast majority behave in a socially respectful manner, there are many others who don’t behave properly and cause serious injury. However, in many circumstances, this is due to the attitude of owners. They are often responsible for many accidents, either because they have not trained their animals correctly, or because they give inappropriate commands to their little friends. This has been in the news lately, especially for the way California police dogs are used.

K-9s or police dogs are trained to assist law enforcement in tasks such as victim rescue or crowd control.

What Are Police Dogs, and What Do They Do?

Police dogs, or K-9 units, are a type of canine trained to assist law enforcement. They are usually breeds with special aptitudes for tracking and apprehension. The most common dogs for these tasks are German and Belgian shepherds, Bloodhounds, and Labradors. These are classified into two groups: patrol and apprehension.

Among the most popular disciplines, apprehension, detention, and capture are the most frequent duties of these canines. These dogs are trained to use their highly developed sense of smell to find dangerous suspects and, if they resist, to bite them and hold them in place upon command from their handler.

On the other hand, search and rescue of victims, hostages, drugs, or explosives are also among their most common assignments.

It is important to mention that police K-9s, or police dogs, are not considered lethal force, and are on the same level as choke wrenches, tasers, or chemical agents, so they are not overly regulated or supervised.

Police Dogs, “Accused” of Racism Since the 80s

In 1980, the Los Angeles Police Department incorporated canine units for the first time. Their start, however, was somewhat troubled. By the end of the decade, hundreds of officers were accused of using these animals against people for racist reasons. In fact, much of the California community blamed hundreds of officers for using the canine unit to injure black and Latino people in poor neighborhoods.

Following a series of reports and investigations that highlighted the high number of serious injury incidents, the LAPD modified its canine policy. As a result of these reforms, K-9 dog bites dropped from 350 a year to 35.

What is the New AB-742 Bill?

Last February, Assembly members Corey Jackson and Ash Kalra introduced a new bill in the California Assembly. The politicians introduced AB-742 with the goal of prohibiting the use of police K-9s in arrests, detentions, or crowd control.

In a press release, they explained that the main reason for creating this rule is to end police misconduct that harms the civil rights of a large portion of society. “We want an end to a racialized and harmful practice guided by racial bias and violence against people of color,” the release stated. Proponents of the bill believe it will mark “a turning point in the fight to end this cruel and inhumane practice.”

Bill AB-742, which is supported by ACLU California Action and NAACP, does not seek to eliminate the police department’s canine unit. The bill, which would be added to California Penal Code Section 13653, wants to prohibit the use of police dogs in any situation involving biting. That is, they would be trained for explosives detection, search and rescue of victims or hostages, or narcotics tracking.

If approved, California would be the first state to adopt this type of legislation.

Statistics on the Impact of Police Dogs in California

Unfortunately, there is no national or statewide database that records incidents involving these police units. However, there are a few investigations by private agencies or companies that allow us to obtain a little more information.

What we certainly do know is that every day, about a thousand citizens go to emergency rooms for serious injuries caused by dog bites. Although most of these dogs have been trained to live in society, they are still animals and can sometimes attack people.

California police dogs, in particular, have worse attack statistics than domestic animals. These canines, trained to work 24/7, follow the orders of their trainer, a police officer from the K-9 canine unit.

As mentioned above, in the late 1980s, the public began to ask questions about the repeated attacks by police K-9s on people. But, it wasn’t until the late ’90s that people learned in more detail about the impact of these animals on communities, thanks to a Los Angeles Times study. The results, as expected, were devastating for police.

Police Reform in the Early 90s Reduced Incident Rates

Research revealed that in the late 1980s, the number of dog bite attacks on suspects by the canine unit exceeded 300 per year. It was the police force that caused the most injuries annually. For example, among the 300,000 people officers arrested in 1989, only 70 of them needed medical treatment for their injuries. That same year, canine unit workers and their K-9s made 650 arrests and injured more than 100.

Following the introduction of reforms to improve violence figures in the 90s, police dog bites in California dropped by nearly 90%.

In recent years, police violence statistics through the canine unit have not improved much. Between 2016 and 2019, according to figures provided by official California agencies, there were 309 incidents involving police dog K-9 attacks. Of this number, approximately 11% of them resulted in serious injury or death.

Blacks and Latinos are Most Affected

One of the reasons for the new AB-742 bill is the historical violence of policing overreach and using dogs in this overreach against blacks and Latinos in California. During the last two decades of the 20th century, critics charged that law enforcement used these animals to attack this population at a high rate. At that time, they were accused of using the canine unit to bite people living in the poorest neighborhoods, a practice full of racial prejudice and violence.

Although this could not be corroborated due to the absence of official data, there is now more concrete information on who are the victims who suffer most from these incidents.

According to a report by the California Department of Justice, of all incidents resulting from police use of force in 2021, injuries caused by police dogs accounted for about 12% of the total. Of this figure, in two-thirds of the cases, the victims were black or Latino.

Of all, white people are the least likely to be attacked by police K-9s. According to research conducted by Eyewitness News in 2020, black people were 3.5 times more likely to be attacked by a police dog in California than white people. Latinos, on the other hand, were nearly twice as likely.

Study Shows Type of Victims of Bay Area Police Departments

In the wake of the sightings of police K-9 attacks in recent years, the media became more interested in the consequences of these bites.

On the one hand, there are national investigations such as the one conducted by The Marshall Project with other organizations. This project strives to examine all cases of neglect involving police dogs on a daily basis. In fact, their data revealed the number of cases related to dog bites in Los Angeles: around 200 between 2017 and 2019.

Moreover, thanks to detailed work done by KTVU, we now have more information about how assiduously the police use the canine unit and which have been their main victims in the Bay Area of California.

Bay Area Dog Bites Between 2017 and 2022:

  • San Jose Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 167


  • Black: 23
  • White: 33
  • Hispanic: 92
  • Asian: 19
  • Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office

No. Of Dog Attacks: 57

Victims: No data was provided on the races of people who were attacked.

  • Antioch Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 49

Victims: No data was provided on the races of people who were attacked.

  • Fairfield Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 42


  • Black: 26
  • White: 10
  • Hispanic: 6
  • Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office

No. Of Dog Attacks: 45


  • Blacks: 2
  • White: 23
  • Hispanic: 13
  • Asian: 3
  • Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

No. Of Dog Attacks: 41


  • Blacks: 13
  • White: 11
  • Hispanic: 11
  • Asian: 1
  • Middle Eastern: 5
  • Napa County Sheriff’s Office

No. Of Dog Attacks: 38

Victims: No data was provided on the races of people who were attacked.

  • Santa Rosa Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 29

Victims: No data was provided on the races of people who were attacked.

  • Sunnyvale Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 29


  • Blacks: 5
  • White: 1
  • Hispanic: 19
  • Asian: 2
  • Concordia Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 22


  • Blacks: 7
  • White: 7
  • Hispanic: 6
  • Asian: 2
  • Freemont Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 18


  • Blacks: 5
  • White: 1
  • Hispanic: 6
  • Asian: 6
  • Oakland Police Department

No. Of Dog Attacks: 13


  • Blacks: 11
  • Hispanic: 2
  • San Francisco Police Department

No. Of Canine Attacks: 2


  • Blacks: 1
  • Hispanic: 1

Shocking Data from the Richmond Police Department

The Richmond Police Department’s dog bite and attack records show excessive use of police force when using the canine unit. Thanks to a disclosure law, the department had to share information with the public that was alarming and shocking.

Over a six-year period, Richmond police officers caused 122 injuries while using force. Of that number, 70 were caused by police dogs. That’s an average of one a month. This means that, of all injury accidents, the use of the canine unit causes the most injuries.

Most Common Injuries Caused by Police Dogs

Like any other dog, bites from these police animals can have serious health consequences. Sometimes they can even result in death. Although they are trained to obey, they can sometimes fail to respond or attack the wrong person. In case of an accident, what are the most common injuries caused by police dogs?

  • Abrasions
  • Infections
  • Skin inflammation
  • Facial scars
  • Broken bones
  • Tendon rupture
  • Nerve damage
  • Emotional damage and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Death
Bill AB-742 wants to eliminate the use of police dogs for arrests or riot control in California.

When is Using a Police Dog Considered an Excessive Use of Force?

The answer to this question is simple: when it is an unjustified attack, or bites cause devastating health consequences. Unfortunately, these bites are usually violent in nature and often result in minor or serious injuries.

Like a weapon, police officers use the force of the canine unit for different cases. Many of these are not of a dangerous nature and therefore do not require the assistance of police dogs, as this would be an abuse of authority and excessive force. Consequently, if this occurs, it would be unlawful and illegal behavior on the part of law enforcement officers. As California law provides, police cannot use lawful force against a fleeing suspect who poses no danger to the community.

Can I Sue if a Police Canine Unit Dog Attacks Me?

If a police dog bites you and causes you bodily injury, you can sue for damages. Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, if a police K-9 injures you, it would be in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

In either case, the responsible party for the injury incident would be the officer involved who commands the animal. Similarly, if other officers have been present at an excessive force accident where the K-9 has brutally attacked a victim, they could also be held at fault for preventing negligence from developing.

When you file a lawsuit for a California police dog bite accident, you are bringing a claim against a public entity. The dog and its police owner are part of a state or national agency.

Section 1983 claims are not easy to prosecute. In the event of a police dog incident, it is best to speak with a specialist California attorney. An expert will be able to provide you with all the details you need, as well as begin the process of getting the compensation you deserve.

Talk to an Adamson Ahdoot Personal Injury Lawyer

Have you suffered any type of police misconduct? Have you been negligently attacked by a K-9 police dog in an officer’s direction? If you believe you have suffered a personal injury at the hands of a California police dog in an unjustified action, contact us now. We know the serious aftereffects a dog bite can cause, and we want to help you hold the perpetrator accountable.

With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, our team excels in the personal injury legal field. The attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot will work with determination and ambition to get you satisfactory compensation for the injuries and damages caused by your accident.

We are here to answer any questions you may have. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we can clarify and resolve all your case concerns. Call us today at (800) 310-1606 to schedule a free initial consultation. We have experienced personal injury attorneys ready to assist you in Spanish or English.

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