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Police departments love to show off their dogs—at parades or on Twitter, visiting classrooms or posing with a Girl Scout troop. Some K-9s even have their own adorable Instagram accounts.

But police dogs are weapons. They bite and maim. They attack bystanders, police officers, and people suspected of petty crimes. And if you are unfortunate enough to get bitten by a police dog, good luck holding anyone accountable.

Dogs have served as instruments of violence in incidents dating back to the days of slavery, and as recently as the Black Lives Matter protests. In a year-long investigation, we talked to the people who train the dogs, the police officers who use them, and the victims who have been mauled by them. We watched dozens of videos of dog bites, from police body cameras and bystanders’ cell phones. We learned a lot about the dogs, which have names like Drogo, Missile, Vader, Storm and Rambo.

There are no national standards for police dog training, yet dogs are responsible for sending thousands of Americans to hospital emergency rooms every year. Few ever get justice. Illustrations by Ross Sneddon

Mauled

When police dogs are weapons

Illustration of police dog Illustration of police dog
Logo for The Marshall Project
Logo for AL.com
Logo for IndyStar
Logo for The Invisible Institute
Logo for The USA Today Network
01
When police violence is a dog bite
02
6 takeaways from our national investigation
03
The city where someone was bitten by a police dog every 5 days
04
5 takeaways from our investigation of Indianapolis police dogs
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Alabama’s ugly secret: police dog attacks
06
She went out for a walk. Then Drogo the police dog charged.
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Police wanted “a dog that would bite a black person.”
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We’re tracking police dog bites across the country

Credits

For The Marshall Project Reporting by Abbie VanSickle, Maurice Chammah, Michelle Pitcher, Damini Sharma, Andrew Calderon and David Eads. Graphics by Weihua Li. Video editing by Celina Fang and Jovelle Tamayo. Design and development by Elan Kiderman, Katie Park and Gabe Isman.
For AL.com Reporting by Challen Stephens and Ashley Remkus. Photos by Joe Songer.
For IndyStar Reporting by Ryan Martin. Photos by Mykal McEldowney. Graphics by Stephen Beard.
For the Invisible Institute Reporting by Dana Brozost-Kelleher, Andrew Fan and Ellen Glover.