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Monday, March 10, 2008

Stop Using Dogs to Tyrannize Us!

As a life-long dog lover I'm constantly astounded of the misuse and abuse of canines by K9 police units. In 1994 I witnessed the abuse of a dog by his uniformed handler from the window of a coffee shop in Memphis, TN. The officer hit the dog multiple times with his closed fist because the dog was chewing on the hard plastic backseat of the police cruiser. When the police officer returned to the seat at the counter, instead of apologizing to the mortified patrons, he let us know how sick he was of that "God damned dog."

I imagine cases like this are widespread and go unreported because of the mythical belief in a "new professionalism." Today I was saddened by the comments of a reader on the Reason Magazine website, announcing the death of a police dog under the care of a police handler, saddened but not surprised. These dogs are often mistreated, beaten, caged for long hours and forced to ride entire shifts in the backseat of a squad car. They are trained to attack people, to bite, to be aggressive. They are used to intimidate non-violent activist and protesters at rallies. The are used to subdue unarmed human beings that aren't a threat to anyone.

The misuse of "drug dogs" has been thoroughly documented. Some of the most damning evidence comes from former drug cop, Barry Cooper, who publicly admits that he has made his dog "false alert" in order to gain probable cause to search a drug suspect. We often get the message that drug dogs are infallible or are objective observers, and that may be the case if not for unscrupulous officers who will do anything for a collar. You can add these poor creatures to the long list of victims of the war on drugs. As smart as some dogs are, they can still be tricked, manipulated, and confused by not just "drug dealers" but by the police who train them.

The use of dogs in police work is an anachronism from a sick era when police didn't like getting their hands dirty with minorities. Technology like the "Taser," despite its own controversy, has replaced the justification for the use of dogs in takedowns. If a foot chase is a justification for having a dog pursue a suspect, police departments may want to instead review the physical fitness requirements of their officers.

I'd like to see some reputable animal protection organizations, humane societies, and owners clubs to step up and join me in the call for the elimination of canines in police work. Together lets bring law enforcement into the 21st century. The use of man's best friend in police work isn't just inhumane to people, it's inhumane to the dogs as well.