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||General Police Dog and Legal Info
||History of Police Dog Abuse
- According to Pliny, the King of the Garamantes of Africa had two hundred trained war dogs "that did battle with those who resisted him." The cities of Colophon and Castabala in Asia Minor also maintained troops of war dogs that fought ferociously in the front ranks[...] The Hyrcanians of the Caspian Sea and the Magnesians [...] were also feared for the large hounds with spiked collars that accompanied them on the battlefield." (this from Aelian). Polyaenus reports that Cimmerians were driven out of Asia Minor in the 6th C. B.C. by the vicious hounds of King Alyattes, who "set his strongest dogs upon the barbarians as if they were wild animals[...] killed many and forced the rest to flee shamefully." And there was an Athenian wardog during Marathon, who served as "fellow-soldier in the battle". (p.191-2)
After Rome fell, the use of dogs for offense and repression appears to have tapered off somewhat, until it was revived with unprecedented brutality by the Spanish Conquistadors.
Spanish invader Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1475-1519) shown in Central America with troops, presiding over the execution of Indians; Engraving by Théodore De Bry (1528-1598); New York Public Library, Rare Book Room, De Bry Collection, New York
Mark Derr's A Dog's History of America (North Point Press: 2004; see Washington Post book review) offers a broad portrait of the use of war dogs in the Americas. According to Derry, the Conquistadors' dogs were "specifically bred and trained to hunt down and disembowel Indians," and they followed the "practice of bringing along on any campaign chained Indian slaves as food for the dogs."
The following anecdote, quoted from The New World Holocaust, was illustrated in the sixteenth century De Bry engraving seen below: "...As the Spaniards went with their war dogs hunting down Indian men and women, it happened that a sick Indian woman who could not escape from the dogs, sought to avoid being torn apart by them, in this fashion: she took a cord and tied her year-old child to her leg, and then she hanged herself from a beam. But the dogs came and tore the child apart; before the creature expired, however, a friar baptized it...."
By the time of the American revolution, the use of dogs for repression had been scaled down, although some, most notably Benjamin Franklin, advocated for a revival. In 1775, he wrote to a friend: "Dogs should be used against the Indians. They should be large, strong and fierce.... In case of meeting a party of the enemy, the dogs are all then to be turned loose and set on. They will be fresher and finer for having been previously confined and will confound the enemy a good deal and be very serviceable...."
Ben Franklin's suggestion was not adopted until 1840, when Secretary of War Joel Poinsett authorized the purchase of the 33 bloodhounds from Cuba (at $151.72 a piece) for offensive use against the Seminole Indians and escaped slaves who had taken refuge among them in western Florida and Louisana (see: 1840 political cartoon vilifying the Van Buren administration's decision to use bloodhounds to hunt down Indians).
from an 1848 political cartoon depicting Zachary Taylor hunting Indians with Cuban bloodhounds in Second Seminole War (click for link to image of full-size print)
Meanwhile, bloodhounds were regularly used to recapture escaped slaves. Excerpt from The Horrors of Slavery and England's Duty to Free the Bondsman: An Address Delivered in Taunton, England, on September 1, 1846 (Somerset County Gazette, September 5, 1846) by Frederick Douglass: "...Slaves frequently escape from bondage, and live in the woods. Sometimes they are absent eight or nine months without being discovered. They are hunted with dogs, kept for the purpose, and regularly trained. Enmity is Instilled into the blood-hounds by these means:—A master causes a slave to tie up the dog and beat it unmercifully. He then sends the slave away and bids him climb a tree; after which he unties the dog, puts him upon the track of the man and encourages him to pursue it until he discovers the slave. Sometimes, in hunting the negroes, if the owners are not present to call off the dogs, the slaves are torn in pieces...."
During the Civil War, Confederate regiments unleashed bloodhounds against negro regiments.
Wood engraved illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, March 5, 1864
Charles Moore commenting on his Birmingham photos (from Civil Rights Photographers -- With Charles Moore and Benedict J. Fernandez moderated by Callie Crossley): "... it shows the man as he really was: defiant, angry; I mean pugnacious and mean. But that's Bull Connor who directed his policemen to do all those things that they did. We know what this is all about. I found it appalling. Somebody said, or several people have said, "Weren’t you afraid these dogs would bite you?" So what? That's not my job. I’m not here to worry about that. I want to see how these policemen would walk these dogs into -- I don’t have his name now, but I looked up and I did research and found out who the man was and all of that. This dog had already bitten his leg very badly. And this one’s pretty close to me. The police walked the dogs right into where there were women and men, and some people even had a child with them...."
See also: Trail to Freedom - From Selma to Birmingham, explore the compelling landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement, and be inspired by the heroes who led the way....
- Riots 'the language of the unheard' (Feb. 23, 2003 / York Dispatch) "...Police quickly swarmed over the block, several with police dogs. The K-9 officers commanded their dogs with shouts of "kill." Three blacks were bitten in the scuffle, which ended only when one man's sister threw herself between him and the dog attacking him. When a German shepherd dog attacks, it doesn't just intimidate. When it bites, the upper and lower incisors connect like scissors and the large canine teeth remove chunks of flesh. The wounds infect easily and the scars usually are permanent...."; See also: 1966: The first long, hot summer (Feb. 24, 2003 / York Dispatch); Militancy grows in city's slums (Feb. 25, 2003 / York Dispatch); Gunfire shatters summer day (Feb. 27, 2003 / York Dispatch); Police dogs stir 1969 hatred (Feb. 28, 2003 / York Dispatch)
Links to additional reports which people wish to suggest for inclusion in this archive can be sent to Eric Squire at: firstname.lastname@example.org