Earlier today my mother and I were attacked by a large German shepherd.

The owners had left their dog unleashed on their property which has no fences or any division between their large lawn and the public sidewalk. The dog saw us talking and walking on the sidewalk and immediately came after us barking loudly. We ran for a little, the owners were nowhere in sight, but the dog caught up to us in the middle of the road and we were forced to fend it off with our umbrellas. After a minute of pushing the dog away from us it retreated behind a house.

We called 911 right away and said the dog retreated for now and we were told to call the non-emergency police line. We asked several times for someone to come and witness the dog roaming the streets, but the officer insisted on filing a report and kept asking us for personal information. We were terrified to return home or leave for work the next day.

Is it justified for the police to not send a police officer when you report a large off-leash dog that approached you aggressively?

3 Answers 3


It depends. The police and only the police decide what are and are not police matters.

However, although it might not be a police matter, you still have lots of options at your disposal.

For example, does your jurisdiction (city, town, municipality, etc.) have an animal control division? i.e., City dog catcher. Most do.

If so, I would call the animal control division and file a report. They might possibly do a field visit and take the animal into custody if the animal is still roaming loose.

If you sustained bodily injuries, you should get checked by a doctor and have those injuries documented in a medical report.

If possible, you could drive by the property and take photos of the unchained dog roaming loose.

Then, armed with your evidence consisting of:

  1. police report
  2. medical injury report
  3. animal control report and
  4. photographs of the scene

You could (with the help of a licensed attorney) file a civil suit against the pet owner. You might be able to win an award for damages, pain and suffering and possibly punitive damages as well (check with your attorney). Also, your attorney could advise you if you might have a cause to move for an enforcement action against the dog and/or its owners that might or might not include having the animal removed from the owners custody or in extreme cases of negligence and bad behavior possibly "put to sleep."

Your suit might focus on collecting from the homeowner's insurance policy of the pet owner and you could potentially collect a lot of money with the right set of facts and evidence on your side.

You might want to look for an attorney who specializes in personal injury. Most PI attorneys work on a contingency. Meaning they don't charge an up front fee and will only get paid if you win your case or settle. In which case their fee is typically about 1/3 of what you get awarded in settlement or judgment.

  • 2
    Thanks for the reply. No one was bitten or hurt, but I did call my city's (Canada) information phone line and reported the dog. They said they will call back. My only issue is that I don't want me or my mom to get hurt in the future before someone will take action. My only issue is why the police didn't come to see the dog when it means potential danger? You had the most informative answer though, and I will award you best answer by tomorrow unless there is a better answer.
    – Anonymous
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 4:45
  • 3
    @Anonymous: As a practical matter, the police can not defend you in case of a dog attack. It's the classic case of "when seconds matter, the police are only minutes away." They just physically can't get to the scene fast enough. So your only options are to either to take 1. proactive measures (civil action against the owners) or 2. reactive measures (carrying a defensive weapon of some kind on your person and be prepared to use it against the attacking dogs). Commented May 2, 2016 at 6:10
  • 1
    While this answer offers great help, it does not answer the question as written, which is whether the police were justified in not sending someone. But maybe it answers the question OP wanted to ask...
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 8:14

If you are in the United States: There is little direct consequence to police for failing or refusing to respond or render service in a specific incident, thanks to Warren v. DC:

The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists.

  • Thanks for the reply. I am surprised to hear that they are not obligated to help me personally, but that doesn't change the fact that I reported a loose german shepherd and I believe it is against the law to have off leash dogs on public property so they should feel obligated to protect the law right?
    – Anonymous
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 4:26
  • 1
    At least in the U.S. sworn law enforcement officers do have a legal requirement to uphold the law. If they observe a crime they are obligated to cite and/or arrest the perpetrator. But they don't have a legal duty to look for crime. So, as in Warren, if three women report that they are being imprisoned and raped, the police don't have a legal obligation to find and assist them. Only if police see them being raped do they have a legal requirement to take action, which is to arrest the rapist on behalf of the public -- it is not an obligation to the particular victims being raped.
    – feetwet
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 13:05
  • They might not have the resources to respond to your call so might have to prioritise more serious stuff. This is a reason for them having the legal right not to turn up when you call 911. Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 21:58

Police will decide for themselves what calls they respond to and what calls they don't. This is a decision that is legally within their power to make. However, if they make the wrong decision there may be legal consequences such as disciplinary action for the particular officer and/or the police department being sued.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .