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Yesterday, the Massachusetts Conference Committee of House and Senate members released SB 2963, a final 129-page compromise bill enacting law enforcement reforms.  In addition to certification training and standards for law enforcement personnel oversight, it creates decertification and other disciplinary measures for police misconduct.  The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to vote and send the bill to the Governor’s desk this week.

Details of how previous versions of the proposals would have negatively impacted police K-9 practices can be viewed in AKC Government Relations’ (AKC GR) prior alert.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) appreciates the Conference Committee’s adoption of AKC’s recommendations into SB 2963, which collectively address the harmful consequences of previous versions of the police-reform legislation.  Specifically, the Conference Committee:

  • Eliminated the phrase, “attacks a person using a dog…”, which mischaracterized the purpose of police K-9s.
  • Limited restrictions on the release of a police K-9.  Restrictions will now apply only in situations where an officer is attempting to control a massive demonstration or crowd.  Under those circumstances, an officer can release a dog to control or influence a person’s behavior only if de-escalation tactics have been attempted and failed and the dog’s release is necessary to prevent imminent harm to the officer; and the foreseeable harm to the suspect in releasing the dog is proportionate to the imminent harm the officer will experience.  (Prior bill text would have inappropriately placed these conditions on all police K-9s deployments.)

Police K-9s serve a variety of functions, including search and rescue; bomb, arson and drug detection; and suspect apprehension.   When probable cause exists to believe that a person hiding in a building has committed a crime in which assaultive behavior was used or threatened to be used, officers may deploy a police K-9 to effect the lawful arrest of the suspect.  This is an appropriate and customary use for a police K-9, even if the officer does not have knowledge of imminent harm at the time the dog is released.  Police K-9s are an invaluable alternative to use of force tools such as tasers, tear gas, or other chemical weapons used to apprehend a suspect that, unlike other methods, can be immediately recalled.

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will continue to provide updates on this legislation.  For more information, contact AKC GR at