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Lawsuits initiated over bites by police dog in Pennsylvania

There's already one existing lawsuit against a Pennsylvania police dog. Soon, there could be others — including at least one by an officer in the Wilkes-Barre K9 unit.

The police dog at the heart of the lawsuits is a German Shepard named Chase. He's accused of biting four people — including two officers — for reasons that aren't quite clear. After the third incident, the city's mayor ordered both the dogs in the K9 unit to be removed from duty and evaluated.

Oddly enough, Chase was the dog that was initially cleared to return first. The other dog, named Skoty, was required to undergo additional training. When he bit another officer, a department investigation concluded that there weren't any procedural violations, although more training for officers was recommended. The idea was to teach the officers how to better work with the dogs.

In the meantime, however, one of the dog's victims filed a lawsuit against the city for both the injuries he suffered from the bite and civil rights violations. The victim was already acquitted of criminal charges related to the incident where he was accused of resisting arrest. The acquittal in that case now allows the civil suit to move forward. This may be what prompted at least one of the officers who was bitten to ask to be added to the pending lawsuit.

Suing over a bite from a police dog is a little more difficult than suing for any other dog bite, but it's not impossible. Generally, police officers — including K9s — are given broad powers of immunity when they're acting in an official capacity.

Usually, the plaintiff in the case will have to show that police acted in an unreasonable way. That might be due to negligence on the part of the handler or negligence in the way the police dog was trained.

Dog bites are a serious concern. If you have been the victim of a dog bite, discuss your situation with an attorney. No matter what the circumstances, he or she will be best qualified to determine your rights in the situation.

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