Dog Days of Summer (Part 1): Intro To Dog Attacks

The reality is street cops are the first responders to virtually every type of emergency, including dog attacks. The following figures on dog bites are both revealing and startling.

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Summer is a busy time of year for street cops. The warm weather means more people spending more time outdoors. In turn, this means increased potential for trouble and confrontations involving both humans and canines.

The reality is street cops are the first responders to virtually every type of emergency, including dog attacks. The following dog bite figures from are both revealing and startling.

At last count there are an estimated 74.8 million dogs in the U.S., 4.7 million dog bites each year, 800,000 (1 of every 6 bites) requiring medical attention, and 368,000 (1,008 a day) persons sent to the ER.

So far, in 2009 there have been 17 fatal dog maulings in the U.S. - on pace with 2007's total of 33 fatal dog attacks. The 2000's have averaged 26 fatal attacks per year - up from an average 17 during the 1980's - 1990's.

The deadliest dog breeds are: Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Presa Canario, Akita, Chow, and German Shepherd. Dogs in their own property make up 78 percent of the attackers that are chained or tethered and mostly male.

Children make up a high percentage of victims, and the face is the most frequent target. Other dog attack factors include: human behavior, dog behavior, training, aggressiveness, unsupervised children, and breed-specific attacks.

You can readily guess who the first responders to many of these dog attacks are: street cops. The same ones who arrive first on scene to practically everything. The reason is easy to understand. Police patrol America's streets 24/7 365 days a year, every year.

While I don't have any official figures on LE vs. vicious dogs, it would be fair to say the vast majority of street cops have confronted vicious dogs during their careers. One would think that law enforcement officers would be highly trained in dealing with dogs. But that's not the case. To my knowledge there are few, if any, LE academies that include vicious dog training.

I've heard critics dismiss the need for dog training as unnecessary, because it's already covered in use of force and deadly force training and policies. The predictable result is street cops must apply existing training to their own OJT, based largely on their survival instincts.

You're probably asking yourself, "What's the problem? Just use whatever force needed to eliminate the threat. After all, it's only a dog." Except to most of the 74.8 million dog owners in today's society that considers dogs as family members.

Conversely, when police roll up on a vicious dog attack in progress, they are duty bound to protect lives - victims' and their own - from serious bodily injury or death. This means using the force necessary to protect life - including using deadly force.

Virtually every part of the United States has its share of horror stories involving tragic dog maulings. One particularly gruesome dog attack that comes readily to mind was a widely publicized gruesome fatal dog mauling in San Francisco in 2001. A 33-year-old female inside her apartment building was attacked by neighbors' two Presa Canarios.

Presa Canarios are very large, strong dogs - looking similar to Great Danes - including in size. The male Presa was 120# and the female was 113#. The attack was relentless, lasting at least five to 10 minutes as the owner tried unsuccessfully to stop the vicious attack.

The female had her throat ripped out and died inside her own apartment building. Arriving San Francisco PD were so shaken by the grisly sight that some officers needed counseling.

Each year, there are equally horrific stories of other tragic fatal dog maulings, often with children as victims. And who is almost first to arrive on scene, and duty bound to act to protect? Law enforcement.

In the coming weeks, I will address specific police/dog issues in this column. I will do so under two broad headings: "bad" dogs and "good" dogs. "Bad" dogs are those that are vicious that LE deals with every day. "Good" dogs are those who work alongside police, who risk their lives for us - our loyal police K9s.

How we deal with "bad" dogs is obviously very different from how we deal with "good" dogs. In subsequent columns, I'll be discussing tactics involving both "bad" and "good" dogs. However, I am looking for YOUR input: your comments, views and ideas, and whether you agree or disagree.

Much of what will be discussed will involve tactics, which will necessitate restricting select columns to's secure area for "LAW ENFORCEMENT ONLY."

It's easy to sign up for. You just need to be a qualified LE officer. Click here, then fill out the form to be added to the "LE ONLY" section. will take care of the rest. You'll not only be able to access "LE ONLY" SWAT columns, but also the many other excellent columns (including Patrol, Gangs, etc.)

Again, what I'm looking for is YOUR input - the street cops. Because you're the ones out there, responding to the calls, risking your lives - and dealing with the "bad" and "good" dogs.

I especially want to hear from Patrol, K9, and SWAT - your experiences, tactics, techniques - your recommendations of what does and doesn't work. And pass it along to the rest of your brothers and sisters in blue.

That's how we learn - all of us - from each other. Looking forward to hearing from you on this topic of vital, but often underestimated, importance.

About the Author
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SWAT Sergeant (Ret.)
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