Valuing Non-Human Law Enforcers

Sarah Markham

Recently, a “Frosty the Snow Man” kicked a police dog and assaulted a human police officer in Maryland.  This made me wonder how violence towards dogs or other animals on a police force may differ in terms of legal treatment compared with a dog who is a domestic companion of a human.

Ohio Code 2921.321 states that “no person shall . . . knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a police dog or horse in [certain] circumstances.” The circumstances are limited in scope to:  (1) when the police dog or horse is assisting a police officer in police duties; or (2) when the dog or horse is not assisting the police, but the perpetrator actually knows the animal is a police dog or horse.  The circumstances seem to put an emphasis on not letting perpetrator assault the police by way of the animal and not concentrate on any one animal’s specific wellbeing.  The law goes further to state that police dogs and horses are not to be interfered with in any manner that, “(a) inhibits or restricts the law enforcement officer’s control of the police dog or horse; (b) deprives the law enforcement officer of control of the police dog or horse; (c) releases the police dog or horse from its area of control . . .”  It is clear that the main point of the law is to protect the police and police work, with the protection of the animal as a secondary goal.  However, the law does prohibit any person from recklessly engaging in any conduct that is likely to cause serious physical injury or death to a police dog or horse.  The previous mentioned Ohio Code 2921.321 also prohibits assaults on handicap assistance dogs.  Similarly, that law seems to aim more at protecting the humans the dogs assist, than the dogs for the dogs sake.  Moreover, Ohio’s laws prohibiting offenses relating to domestic animals also put an emphasis on the animal’s worth as human property.
People who violate the above laws knowingly are guilty of assault on police dog (horse), which is a second-degree misdemeanor.  While people who violate the prohibition of reckless interference with the animals are deemed to merely harass the animal, which is also a misdemeanor in the second degree.  The law further provides that should the animal die or suffer serious harm from the human’s behavior, then the harassment offense is elevated to a third or fourth degree felony respectively.  This shows that while there is a great concern for maintaining the police and assistance animals for the security and help that they provide humans, the animals themselves are also of great concern.  Continue reading