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24 thoughts on “2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Former Officer Charged with Felonies After his 'Personal' K-9 Killed a Man and Injured a Woman

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  1. How terribly sad! I was so hoping he would survive this attack.

    It's always surprising to see a DBRF caused by a breed other than a pit bull, but here again we see that genetics matter.

  2. As the former owner of a German Shepherd, and a legal expert in law enforcement, animal law, and Breed Specific Legislation, it is well known by law enforcement officers that Belgain Malinois are preferred over German Shepherds for K-9 duty with patrol officers for one fact: They are much better at "Bite Work". GSDs do not perform as well in biting – and here is the important part – and HOLDING that bite. The Malinois will hold that bite, keeping the suspect from really doing anything else than focusing on the K-9. This owner, being in law enforcement, would absolutely know this genetic trait of the Malinois breed. Now, as I known absolutely nothing about the coroner's official results as to the exact cause of death, it is impossible for me to say that this one trait of Belgian Malinois is directly responsible for this man's death.

  3. Such a horrible way to die, all because someone didn't contain their "pet".

    I believe all dog owners should be held criminally responsible for any damage their dogs do. We have to get rid of the 'one bite' laws and pound it into people's heads that if they don't contain their dogs properly, they may be arrested for assault or manslaughter.

    Either that, or we declare "Open Season" on all roaming dogs. Or both.

    We need an attitude change on the part of dog owners. We've gone too far toward "My pet is a part of my family, it's my furbaby", and folks don't get that these are animals with the equipment enabling them to maul or kill in their heads.

    I'm not against BSL; I think this approach needs to be taken in ADDITION to BSL.

  4. Please keep sharing our fundraiser for Terri Fear. She is going to need our help. It doesn't matter how large or small your donation is, its all equally important.
    Her husband is a true hero and deserves to know we are here to help his wife. He lost his life saving another person, now we need to honor him by helping his devastated family. Please donate and SHARE the gofundme link.
    Thank you and God bless.

  5. Just to let readers know, DogsBite does track significant police K9 mauling civil cases. That is a separate issue than the death of David Fear. A police K9 in the line of duty did not attack David. Currently, we do not know much about this dog. We don't know if it is a retired K9 from a different jurisdiction or if it has a history of attacking people or pets. We don't know if it underwent protection training either. The primary legal issues (in civil cases) around police dog maulings is when 1.) the dogs are trained to "bite and hold," 2.) when the dogs attack innocent bystanders — attack the wrong targets 3.) or are being used against non violent offenders. Earlier this year, the ninth circuit ruled that the City of San Diego's policy of training its police dogs to "bite and hold" people resulted in a violation of a plaintiff's 4th Amendment rights (excessive force in comparison to the crime).

    To learn more about IPO bite work training (dogs trained in "personal protection" or police or military work), read Alexandra Semyonova's document. These are very serious animals. Unfortunately, attacks by retired K9s are on the rise and the injuries they inflict are extremely damaging.

    Dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillips also talks about the dangerousness of police and military dogs. Scroll down the page to: "Dangerousness of police and military dogs" and the section after, "Liability for injuries by police dogs" regarding the state of California. Phillips' example also states the K9 was "given away" after two attacks (became a retired police K9). "However, it was revealed through discovery that the same dog attacked a police officer 3 months later, resulting in his disability for a number of months. Phillips' client ended up winning a substantial settlement. Interestingly, after these two events the dog was not put down, but was given away…"

  6. David Fear should get a posthumous medal for heroism – he saved his neighbour's life and he wouldn't have been injured or killed but for intervening to save her life. A selfless act, what a brave man.

    Malinois are crazy compared to German Shepherds. They bite like pitbulls (holding and shaking their head) BUT they are much, much smarter than pitbulls and much more agile and quick. They aren't as good at dogfighting as pits (less game, higher centre of gravity and less sturdy) but they're much better "manstoppers" which is why they excel at protection work.

  7. If your dog kills someone, you need to go to jail, period. I see this as no different in the level of GROSS negligence involved than drunk driving fatalities, and you know they don't get a mere slap on the wrist anymore.

  8. I used to be a 911 operator, and every now and then the K9 officers would bring their dogs in off the road. One officer I worked with had a Malinois. I've been around and worked around dogs my whole life and I've never been afraid of any dog. I was terrified of that Malinois. He looked at you like "give me a reason." The other police K9s were intense, but not at that level. I've also known Malinois' that are wonderful and well adjusted.
    Mr. Fear's death was horrific and completely preventable. The owner needs to be held responsible, period. I truly hope there is no obfuscation or duplicity on the part of the PDs involved. Condolences to the Fear family.

    • Malinois that aren't attack / schutzhund trained can be perfectly well adjusted dogs (provided they were socialised and trained well and they aren't from a bloodline bred for bite work). They're not a dog for the average pet owner though (like most working breeds).

  9. That it was a trained K9 is hardly surprising – K9 training is basically training a dog to bite people and not to submit even when those people fight back and injure the dog. Some programs also teach the dog not just to attack on command but to attack on certain triggers (e.g. person runs away from dog, person runs towards dog, person waves stick or bangs stick on ground, person shouts etc)- the triggers are so general that many things in normal everyday life could set these dogs off (kids playing baseball / softball for example).

    I really think K9s should be banned entirely from police forces – they certainly shouldn't be living in normal homes like normal pets putting members of the public at risk.

  10. There are so many problems with all of this. Where to begin?

    These dogs are very expensive. The taxpayers bought the dog. The training is very expensive. The taxpayers paid for the training. The dog then was never used for the purpose for which the taxpayers paid for the dog. This 25 year old took the dog. Yes, some mone changed hands, but this likely did not fully reimburse the taxpayers. Did they approve of this sale? Who allowed this to happen and gave permission for this? Was the point of all of this for this man to acquire this dog? Was the dog then used for commercial purposes?

    A 25 year old then had a very dangerous dog at his home. Why? How? How could anyone have allowed this to happen?

    I can relate to you something that was going on with police dogs back in the 1980s and 1990s in a small American city, and probably in others as well. Police officers took these expensive dogs home, and BRED THEM, selling the litters of puppies privately at a large profit, while the dogs were owned and paid for by the taxpayers.

    There needs to be oversight of all of these police dog programs. They NEVER belong in private homes. There is a lot of questionable activity, overpayment, risk, and many others factors involving these police dog programs. There has been a blurring of civic interests and private interests with the police dog issue.

    • Everyone that lives in a jurisdiction with a police K9 unit needs to write to their police force head office and their local council / municipality / town hall / mayor's office whatever, and request that these dogs are not kept in private residential homes where they can put the public at risk. If enough people complain eventually the powers that be have to address it. At the very least these dogs should be kept at the police stations they report to in special secure kennels so that they can't easily escape and wreak havoc on the neighbourhood.

      I personally believe it's cruel to train animals to be so aggressive (the training methods used are abusive) and dogs should not be used in this way at all. The dogs don't sign up to be put in such dangerous situations where they will be fighting for their own lives – the job is forced on them. why is it illegal to fight dogs but not to send an attack trained dog at a potentially armed suspect? It's just as cruel to the dog.

  11. The issue of working police dogs attacking innocents or failing to "let go" on command, along with failed, quasi-failed and/or retired police dogs attacking innocents, has been on our radar for 4 years now. What is unusual about this case is how absolutely irresponsible this officer was. This is a precedent setting case — that will hopefully gain the attention and distribution in police forces across the nation — forcing them to review these polices. For these reasons, we will be covering the preliminary hearing and the trial (assuming there is a trial) of Alex Geiger.

  12. Colleen Lynn, do you know if these attacks have been increasing in frequency over the past four years compared to the number of attacks in the past?

    Has anyone tracked or noted the trainers or training methods used with these failed/quasi-failed dogs? I'm curious because I've seen some discussion online about the differing philosophies of schutzhund/bite work training. I also wonder about the training being used with the new pit bull K9s, though thankfully it doesn't seem like they're being used for bite work (thank God–can you imagine?)

  13. Yes, they are very much increasing. We have not altered our Google Alerts too much over the years, yet these attacks have been increasingly invading them. This is an issue that came onto our radar — we did not look it up. It is a daunting issue that is only tracked "via jurisdiction" if it is tracked at all. Information is not shared or collected on a county or state basis. The courts have stated that "hold and bite" training is "excessive force" — that is what most of the legal cases are about — when used against minor offenders. The changes really need to come at a state-level in setting standards for training and post-training (annual re-certification), as well as how to handle dogs that fail or retire.
    "The panel reversed the district court’s summary judgment and remanded in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the City of San Diego’s policy of training its police dogs to “bite and hold” individuals resulted in a violation of plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights. The panel held that a reasonable jury could find that police officers responding to an office building’s burglar alarm used excessive force when they deliberately unleashed a police dog that they knew might well “rip [the] face off” any individual who might be present in the office. Because a reasonable jury could find that the force used was excessive and because the City conceded that the use of the force involved was in conformance with its policy, the panel reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the City and remanded for further proceedings." –US Ninth Circuit, April 1, 2016
    There are "so many" entities that offer police K9 training, it would be impossible to track them all down and see which is responsible for the dogs lacking bite inhibition/fail to release on command, impulsive aggression etc. This case is precedent setting because Exeter knew the dog had problems, but allowed Geiger to take it anyway and place it into the community.

    This is absurd … "mistaken identity" claim after the dog attacked his handler of 3-years and refused to let go! Officer had to shoot and kill the dog!

    This is getting more and more common… They ship the dog back, then who knows? It's probably re-deployed.

  14. Thank you for the response, Colleen Lynn, and for the excellent research. This is obviously a very complex issue involving multiple layers. It will be interesting to see if Exeter will be charged with any liability in this case since as you said they allowed Geiger to take the dog while being aware of problematic behavior.

  15. Thank you Colleen Lynn for publishing an accurate, clear account of my father's horrific attack. Also, thank you for your continued efforts in bringing transparency to the public regarding the viscousness of these specific breeds.

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