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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Can You Sue a Police Dog?

     At 2:30 AM on March 22, 1997, a convicted felon named Anthony Dye was racing his Corvette through the streets of Elkhart, Indiana. The police were in hot pursuit. Dye pulled into his mother's driveway, got out of the car, and made a run for it. When the police caught up with him, Dye took a semiautomatic pistol from his waistband and opened fire. At that critical moment, a valiant police dog named Frei leapt into action, fastening onto Dye's leg, and, as it were, took a bite out of crime. Dye was arrested.

     Having been injured in the course of his arrest, Dye did what any red-blooded American would do. He brought a lawsuit--against Frei the police dog. Dye argued that dogs are "persons" who can be sued, at least when they work for the police. Dye fought his way to the second highest court in the land, the United States Court of Appeals, which dismissed his claim.

     Dye's theory that a dog is a person [under the law] is not as far-fetched as you might think. In fact, he wasn't even the first person to sue a police dog. And some very respectable lawyers have argued that the legal definition of a person ought to be expanded, at least to include other primates. Laurence Tribe, Harvard's leading constitutional scholar, has maintained for years that chimpanzees should be considered persons under the constitution.

Adam Freedman, The Party of the First Part, 2007

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