Dogs play important roles in the lives of many people and communities. They are man's best friend and they are also a police officer's partner. Police canines are highly trained dogs that are treated less as pets than as law enforcement tools. That is how police see them - but also how the law sees them.
That point was made clear through a recent verdict in a Wisconsin dog bite lawsuit. A plaintiff filed a personal injury case against police after an officer's dog attacked her in July 2010. (She wasn't a criminal suspect. She was simply getting help from the officer.) The dog bit her thigh when she tried to get into the back of a patrol car where it was sitting. Though it was clearly an incident of a dog bite, the court didn't treat it like a standard dog bite case.
In Wisconsin, there are relatively strict laws regarding owner liability in cases of dog attacks. Standard dog owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs from society and to recognize if their dog is a threat. Those cases are different, however, compared to the case of the police canine. The judge who presided over the dog bite case essentially treated the animal as though he were an employee of the police force, a public servant. The law generally protects them from liability lawsuits.
It is understandable that the dog bite victim in this case would seek some sort of compensation. She believes that her injury could have been prevented, whether through better training or better protection by the officer who was present, for example.
Outside of this sort of case, dog owners can be held accountable for injuries caused by their pets. Visit our Wisconsin animal attack page to learn how we approach cases where victims have been injured by dog bites and similar incidents.
Source: Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "Deputy dog immune from bite rule," Bruce Vielmetti, Oct. 17, 2012