Sample K-9 Unit Policy


1.1.1 POLICY

It is the policy of Blank Police Department to utilize canine personnel to the greatest extent possible. The psychological deterrence to crime, superior speed, and scenting abilities will be used in support of the patrol, narcotics, and investigative functions to apprehend offenders, recover evidence, and improve officer safety.


.01 Supervision

  • A. Canine Officers will be under the immediate supervision of the Canine Unit Supervisor.
  • B. Canine Officers will work such hours and perform such duties as prescribed by the Canine Unit Supervisor.
  • C. Canine Teams will be assigned by the Canine Unit Supervisor to patrol specific districts, estates or zones, where the incidents of crime are high.

.02 Handler Responsibilities

  • A. Canine handlers will be responsible for the care, training, and certification of their canines and will be held strictly accountable for the proper use of the dog.
  • B. Canine handlers will be responsible for maintaining the working proficiency of their canines at OPOTA certification levels.
  • C. Canine handlers will be required to submit reports on the training, utilization, care, feeding, certification, and bites of their respective canines’ records.
  • D Canine handlers will be responsible for the specialized equipment in their assigned K-9 vehicles to include:
    • .1 Temperature controlled alarm,
    • .2 Automatic door opener,
    • .3 Narcotics overdose kit.
    • .4 Special collars, Leashes – Pinch collar, Agitation collar, 30 foot tracking lead, and 6-foot lead.

.03 Training

  • A. The Blank Police Department Canine Teams will be trained by a competent, professional trainer. The training program will be designed to evolve around the following areas of instruction:
    • .1 Obedience
    • .2 Agility .
    • 3 Scent Work
    • .4 Tracking
    • .5 Building Searches
    • .6 Field Searches
    • .7 Evidence Searches
    • .8 Controlled Aggression
    • .9 Narcotics Detection
  • B. Canine handlers will be responsible for training their dogs. Training exercises will be designed to improve the proficiency of the dog and will accustom the canine to react and perform in various situations and environments.
  • C. All canine handlers will undergo training by a trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association.
    • .2 All canine teams will be OPOTA certified.
    • .3 All handlers and canines will be trained weekly.
    • .4 All handlers will be in charge of their dog for feeding, grooming, health care and safety.
    • .5 All handlers will train their dog for eight (8) hours weekly on the areas listed above.
    • .6 Total training hours per month will be 32 hours minimum.
    • .7 All training will be documented on a training sheet, which will be maintained by the Canine Unit Supervisor.
    • .8 All necessary training equipment will be maintained by the Canine Unit to include:
    • a. Full Bite Suit
    • b. Arm Sleeves
    • c. Hidden Arm Sleeves
    • d. Leg Sleeve
    • e. Narcotic Training Aids

.04 Duties of Canine Teams

  • A. The following are examples of duties and/or assignments to be handled by police canine teams:
    • .1 Searching buildings and enclosed areas for unauthorized person(s).
    • .2 Tracking criminal suspects or escapees who have fled the scene of a crime.
    • .3 Searching areas for evidence left by perpetrators of a crime.
    • .4 Assisting in jailbreak or barricade incidents.
    • .5 Assisting in locating lost person(s).
    • .6 Assisting in the apprehension of suspects fleeing crimes or warrant service.
    • .7 Protection of officers making arrests at disturbance or fight scenes.
    • .8 Narcotics detection during search warrant executions.
  • B. Performing other duties as designated by the Canine Unit Supervisor, on duty Watch Commander, Patrol Commander, Deputy Chiefs, or the Chief of Police.

.05 Police Canine Use of Force

  • A. The police dog is a non-lethal weapon to be used only under circumstances where an officer is justified in using other non-lethal weapons.
  • B. A canine handler may permit controlled aggression by his canine under the following circumstances:
    • .1 If the handler is assaulted.
    • .2 If the dog is assaulted.
    • .3 To apprehend a known felon.
    • .4 To prevent assault or injury to a citizen or police officer.
    • .5 To prevent the escape of a known felon or misdemeanor fleeing the scene of a crime or warrant service.
  • C. A handler will not permit canine aggression under the following circumstances:
    • .1 When use of non-lethal weapons is not justified.
    • .2 Against a person who obviously cannot escape or offer serious resistance.
    • .3 To coerce, frighten, or intimidate a suspect.
    • .4 Against elementary grade school juveniles.
    • .5 Against protestors, strikers, or riot type situations.

.06 Handler Responsibilities in Instances of Dog Bites

  • A. In the event of any intentional or accidental bite by a police dog, the handler shall IMMEDIATELY:
    • .1 Administer First Aid.
    • .2 Notify the Canine Unit Supervisor. (If not working, the on duty Watch Commander)
    • .3 Have the victim or suspect transported to a medical facility for treatment.
    • .4 Make NO statements regarding fault or liability.
    • .5 Submit a detailed bite report and inter-office memorandum to the Canine Unit Supervisor.
    • .6 Have photographs taken of the wounds.
  • B. The Canine Unit Supervisor shall investigate all instances of accidental and/or intentional dog bites by unit canines and shall IMMEDIATELY:
    • .1 Notify the on duty Watch Commander.
    • .2 Investigate the incident to ensure compliance with Department Rules & Regulations, Policies & Procedures.
    • .3 Submit a detailed investigative report on the findings.
    • .4 Recommend disciplinary action if warranted.

.07 Injury to Canine Officer

  • A. In the event that a canine officer is injured to the extent that he cannot exercise control over the dog, any officer on the scene shall:
    • .1 Call for another canine officer. These officers are trained in exercising control over another handler’s dog.
    • .2 If another canine officer cannot be contacted, then contact the handler’s family members.
    • .3 If family members or another canine handler cannot respond in a timely manner and the injured officer’s life is in jeopardy, officers on the scene should attempt to divert the dog’s attention in order to reach the injured officer and move him to safety if possible.The canine’s training and dedication to its handler may make diversion extremely difficult. An officer “taking a bite” may be the only successful way of diverting the canine’s attention. When an officer on the scene: takes a bite” he should follow these guidelines:
      • a. Use a bite sleeve or heavily pad the arm to reduce the chance of injury.
      • b. Have other officers standing by with a rope, leash or chain, which can be quickly attached to the canine’s choker collar after the attack.
    • .4 As a last resort, the canine can be destroyed only in the event of a pending fatality to the handler.

.08 Guidelines for the use of Canine Teams

  • A. When a canine team responds to any of the assignments outlined under duties of canine teams, it shall be the handler’s determination once he is on the scene, whether or not his canine is to be utilized based on the handler’s assessment of the situation and his knowledge of the dog’s capabilities.

.09 Building Searches

  • A. When canine teams respond to building searches, officers on the scene shall observe the following guidelines:
    • .1 Officers shall surround the building and wait for the arrival of the canine team. Officers shall not enter the building unless directed to do so by the canine team(s)
    • .2 Officers shall not open doors or windows or allow anyone to enter the building.
    • .3 During the course of the search, no person shall enter the building except the handler and a back-up officer at the handler’s request.
    • .4 Canine teams may conduct building searches either on or off leash.
  • B. Canine officers conducting a building search shall observe these guidelines:
    • .1 Upon arrival on the scene of a building to be searched, the canine officer should consult with the officers on the scene and assess the situation.
    • .2 The canine officer shall make every effort to verify that no innocent or authorized person(s) are in the building before commencing a search. (Example: janitors, employees working overtime, etc.)
    • .3 The canine team shall advise all on-scene units when his team is entering the building to be searched.
    • .4 Before committing the police dog off leash in cases where a suspect is trapped inside during a crime in progress and is in a place of hiding, the handler shall challenge the suspect by clearly announcing his identity, that a police dog is present and will be sent into the building. (Example: This is Officer Smith of the Blank Police Canine Unit. You have two (2) minutes to speak to me or come out or the dog will be sent in.)
    • .5 The canine officer will wait for one (1) minute and then give the suspect the second and final warning. When two (2) minutes have elapsed, the dog will be released for a search of the building.
    • .6 If a canine officer is requested to conduct a search where no signs of forced entry can be found, (open door or window); the search by the canine team will be conducted on leash. However, after entry into the building, evidence indicates a crime is in progress, the handler will automatically release the canine for an off leash search. The handler will immediately notify the perimeter units of a change in tactics.
  • C. School Building Searches – Drug Detection Canine
    • .1 Recent case law mandates additional considerations when implementing usage of the Drug Detection Canine in a school building, both public and private. These considerations are in addition to those enumerated above.
      • a. The drug detection canine may be used to sniff at student’s lockers without a search warrant only when the school district has advised the students that they have no expectation of privacy in their lockers and that their lockers would be subject to inspection and search at any given time. If, under these circumstances, the canine alerts at a locker, the locker could be searched and anything observed in plain view could be seized. However, personal articles belonging to the students, such as jackets, boxes or book bags, would not be subject to search without a search warrant.
      • b. If the school district has not given notice to the students that their lockers are subject to inspection and search, it is necessary for the police to have reasonable, articulable suspicion that drugs are present in a student’s locker before subjecting the locker to canine inspection. If the dog indicates that drugs are in the locker, the officer is then required to get a search warrant prior to opening the locker to search for drugs.
      • c. REMEMBER: These additional requirements are mandatory when utilizing drug-detection canines in any city school.
  • D. Search Warrants – Drug Detection Canine
    • .1 The SWAT Entry Team shall make the entry and secure the building/apartment to be searched.
    • .2 After securing the building the Entry Team will close all windows, shut off all fans, air conditioning, etc. and remove all prisoners/suspects from the building.
    • .3 The canine team will enter and search the building and after completion notify the Narcotics Supervisor of his finds, removing the dog from the building and securing same in his canine unit prior to the Narcotics Search Team entering the building.
    • .4 The Perimeter Cover Team (Tactical Unit) will not allow any person(s) to enter the building during the canine team search except the handler and a back-up officer at the handler’s request.

.10 Tracking and Article Searches

  • A. In tracking situations, the canine team must have the cooperation of all officers at the scene.
  • B. The area where the subject was last seen should be preserved so as not to avoid contamination. Vehicle engines should be turned off and a perimeter large enough to contain the situation established.
  • C. Officers shall not touch articles of evidence, which may have been dropped or left by the suspects(s).
  • D. Canine teams generally conduct tracking and article searches on leash. However, should the canine alert to a suspect hiding while on track, the handler shall release the dog from harness and tracking line to conduct an area search.
  • E. Area searches (off leash) in open areas are permissible when the handler determines the need for such action. When utilizing the area search technique, the canine handler will maintain strict verbal command of his police dog.

.11 Jailbreak or Large Gatherings of Disorderly Persons

  • A. Police canine teams shall be dispatched to any jailbreak incident and to any incident involving a large group of disorderly persons.
  • B. When available for the safety of the officers and police dogs, two canine teams should be dispatched on these calls.
  • C. If two canine teams are not working, or are otherwise unavailable, and there is an obvious need for more than one team, the on-duty Watch Commander may authorize the Radio Communications Center personnel to contact off-duty personnel to respond.

.12 Civil Disturbances, Strikes, and Crowd Situations

  • A. Canine teams may only be utilized in crowd, civil disturbances, or strikes to protect officers making arrests. Their use in these situations will be limited to preventing the interference of bystanders with the arrest (s) of disorderly person(s), the protection of officers making arrests, and security type situations.
  • B. Canines being used in crowd situations to protect officers making arrests are at a high level of agitation and will bite anyone coming too close to the handler. Officers must maintain a safe distance from the dog at all times unless instructed otherwise by the handler.

.13 Lost Person(s)

  • A. Police dogs can be used to a great advantage in searching for lost person(s). Officers investigating lost person complaints shall:
    • .1 Ascertain the exact location where the subject was last seen.
    • .2 Ensure all vehicle engines in the area of the track are shut off.
    • .3 Prevent unnecessary pedestrian movement in the area of the track.
    • .4 Apprise the handler upon arrival of all available information.
    • .5 Establish perimeters and be prepared to alter same, according to recommendations of the handler.

.14 Requests For Off Duty Canine Teams

  • A. Requests for canine assistance during the hours when there is no canine officer assigned on duty will be approved by the on-duty Watch Commander, who will instruct the Radio Communications Center to notify the Canine Unit Supervisor, who will contact a canine team to handle.
  • B. Requests for canine assistance from outside agencies or jurisdictions during hours when there is no canine officer on duty will only be authorized by the on-duty Watch Commander, the Patrol Commander, the Deputy Chiefs or the Chief of Police.

.15 Canine Handling – Motorized Patrol

  • A. Canine Units will be kept clean and sanitary at all times. Excessive dog hair will be removed and windows kept clean.
  • B. Unnecessary barking and excitability will reduce the canine’s stamina when called upon to perform canine service. Canines will be kept from barking excessively or needlessly when in a vehicle.
  • C. Canine officers will never allow their dogs to protrude their heads out of the vehicle windows to bark at pedestrians.
  • D. Canine Units will follow departmental rules and regulations regarding vehicle pursuits.
  • E. At any time, the canine is left in his canine unit unattended the rear lift gate and/or doors will be locked.
  • F. During warm weather, the canine unit air conditioner will be used to keep the canine comfortable. A sufficient amount of cool water will be readily available at all times. If left unattended in the canine unit, the engine will be left running. Together with the air conditioner, doors will be locked, and the vehicle will be parked in the shade. The handler will check the vehicle every ten (10) minutes to ensure the engine is running and the canine is OK.

.16 Canine Handling – Foot Patrol

  • A. Canines will be well groomed before going on duty or foot patrol.
  • B. Canines will not be fed prior to or on duty.
  • C. A canine on foot patrol will be on leash at all times.
  • D. Canines will not drink water from containers or areas used by other dogs. A sufficient amount of fresh water will be kept in the canine unit at all times.
  • E. Canine handlers will not leave their canine unattended while on foot patrol.
  • F. The decision as to whether or not a canine may be touched or petted will rest with the handler. If the handler decides that his dog cannot be petted, he will take the time to explain why.

.17 General Handling

  • A. When in public, canine handlers will keep their dog on leash and in full control at all times.
  • B. Canines will never be used as a scare tactic.
  • C. A canine handler will never allow his dog to chew on items while on duty and in public.
  • D. Canine handlers will not expose their canines to chemical leaks or heavy smoke from fire situations.
  • E. Canine handlers will not utilize their canines in burned out structures. Additionally, vacant buildings also represent danger to canines. Only a very serious offense would warrant the use of a canine in vacant structures.

.18 Canine Care

  • A. All canines owned by the Blank Police Department will undergo a physical examination once every six (6) months by a veterinarian specified by the Canine Unit Supervisor.
  • B. Canine handlers will be responsible for all vaccinations, which will be kept up to date.
  • C. During the months of May through October, precautions will be taken to prevent the canine from contracting heartworm with medication as prescribed by the veterinarian.
  • D. Canine handlers will groom their dogs daily to ensure a clean and healthy coat. During the summer months, the handlers will remove the under down to provide for adequate body ventilation.
  • E. Canine handlers will not patrol on foot during periods of high heat and humidity. (Damage to the dog’s pads could occur.)
  • F. Canine handlers will regulate the canine’s diet in order to maintain proper body weight. Excessive weight will reduce the endurance and longevity of the dog.

.19 Canine Demonstrations

  • A. The purpose of canine demonstrations is twofold:
    • .1 It allows the education of the public on modern day use of the police work dog.
    • .2 It helps promote relations between the community and the police.
  • B. In order to enhance community relations, yet at the same time protect the officers and their dogs from strenuous schedules, the following guidelines will be strictly adhered to by the department.
  • .1 Basic Program Requirements:
    • a. Demonstrations may be given before any type or age bracket group.
    • b. Travel distance will not exceed the limits of Cuyahoga or adjoining counties.
    • c. If the program is outside the limits of the City of Cleveland, the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction will be advised of the demonstration and invited to attend.
  • .2 Handler Requirements
    • a. When the program is in another law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction, that agency will be contacted and the persons name who represents that agency shall appear on the demonstration report.
    • b. All demonstrations will be approved by the Canine Unit Supervisor prior to the demonstration. All requests shall be forwarded to the Canine Unit Supervisor.
  • .3 Miscellaneous Provisions:
    • a. The number of demonstrations shall be kept to a minimum so as not to adversely affect the duty schedule and well being of the handler and/or police dog.
    • b. No deviations from this policy are acceptable without prior approval of the Chief of Police or his designee.

This is a Sample K-9 Unit Policy provided by Excel K-9 Services, Inc.