Advocates denounce legislature shelving bill that would have restricted police attack dog maulings in California

SACRAMENTO — On Tuesday, a bill that would have restricted the use of police attack dogs to only cases where a person poses serious injury to an officer or others was held up in the legislature. Assembly Bill 742 would have established transparency and accountability for the use of law enforcement canines, which currently routinely bite, maul, and inflict life-altering injuries on California residents.

In response, ACLU California Action Director of Government Affairs Carmen-Nicole Cox issued the following statement:

“We are disappointed the California legislature will not address the unregulated maulings of California residents by police attack dogs this year. The practice of training dogs to attack humans dates back to slave patrols and the Civil Rights Movement, and their present-day use is outdated and dangerous. We remain committed to engaging with the legislature to create strict statewide standards that are codified in law to bring transparency to when and why attack dogs are used and severely restrict their use in our state. 

“In just the last few years, police have used attack dogs to injure hundreds of people across California so badly that these individuals faced a significant risk of death or permanent impairment of a body part. Law and police agency policy recognize weapons like batons or tasers as serious instruments of force, yet more Californians suffer life-threatening or life-altering injuries resulting from police dog attacks than those similarly harmed by batons or tasers. Despite the dangers posed by police dogs, there are no state or national standards to govern their use. 

“The data and records publicly available now show that the vast majority of Californians severely injured by police attack dogs are not armed with any weapon and do not pose a serious threat to officers or others. Statewide, two-thirds of Californians severely injured by police dogs are people of color. The police cannot reliably control these animals, which are known to fail to stop attacking when recalled and to maul innocent bystanders. 

“California police departments have repeatedly obscured or denied accurate reporting data on attack dog incidents, meaning the existing state data sources do not fully capture the extent of brutality involving attack dogs in our state. We cannot allow law enforcement to write their own weak rules for this dangerous practice. ACLU California Action is committed to working in partnership with lawmakers this year to make statewide laws to govern and restrict the use of police attack dogs.” 

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