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LAPD Officer Keeping K-9 Unit Dogs Caged for Days at a Time

When the dogs are off duty, they spend nearly 72 hours locked in a kennel—footage shows the animals are noticeably distressed.

Photo: Los Angeles Police K-9 Fund

Update: According to nearby residents, LAPD officers arrived to investigate the dogs’ living conditions on September 22nd. Neighbors report the dogs have been removed from the property.

KNOCK has not been able to reach LAPD for more information, but according to an email exchange between Loz Feliz Neighborhood Council member Sheila Irani and Sergeant Roy Yoo of the Office of Special Operations, the Internal Affairs Division has opened an investigation into Joshua Kniss’s treatment of the dogs. The animals’ current whereabouts are unknown.

In the Hollywood Hills off Franklin Avenue sits a historic 13,290 square foot estate called the Artemesia House. The massive property is located in Valley Oak Drive, one of Los Angeles’ few gated communities, home to stars like Brad Pitt, Beck, and Giovanni Ribisi.

But within this enclave of wealth, sprawling views, and seemingly idyllic living, the community finds itself afflicted by the culture of abuse that marks the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). However, in this instance, it’s toward LAPD’s canine counterparts.

The Artemesia House once included a waterfall-like feature that cascaded downhill from the property toward a small pump house, around 100 square feet in size. Inside the now-defunct structure, Joshua Kniss, an officer with LAPD’s K-9 unit, is confining two police dogs for days at a time while they’re off duty.

Photo: Bailey Benningfield/KNOCK.LA

KNOCK.LA has obtained footage of the dogs being kenneled for up to 72 hours with only 10 to 15 minutes of outdoor time per day.

“This is a continuation of a culture that lacks sensitivity and is predicated on domination — it doesn’t stop at people. It extends to other living things,” said neighbor Eric Rippel.

Nearby residents report they can hear the dogs crying and barking excessively. Some have witnessed them pacing back and forth during the long hours they spend caged.

The Artemesia House is owned by famed photographer and art collector Jean Pigozzi. The relationship between Pigozzi and Kniss is unclear, but according to neighbors, Kniss may provide security for the property in exchange for housing.

Kniss lives on the opposite side of the Artemesia estate in an old carriage house — which is now a private one bedroom apartment — safely distanced from the dogs’ cries.

Photo: The Architect/Public Domain

Recent footage shows Kniss taking the dogs out during the week for work, typically from Sunday to Wednesday. He then returns them to the pump house after their shift. But when the dogs aren’t working, they’re often kenneled for days at a time with minimal human interaction or exercise.

According to video obtained by KNOCK.LA, on September 6 — one of the hottest days ever recorded in Los Angeles’ history — Kniss left the dogs at the pump house at 2:28 pm. At that time, the temperature in the Hollywood Hills was between 111° and 115° F. Kniss did not return until the next morning on September 7.

The Humane Society says enclosing dogs outdoors on hot days does not provide relief — it restricts air flow and can lead to overheating. The pump house doesn’t appear to have any temperature regulation systems in place.

Another video shows Kniss leaving the dogs in the pump house on Thursday, September 10. He goes back on September 12 to let them out for less than 15 minutes, then doesn’t pick them up for work until the morning of Sunday, September 13. The dogs were locked inside the pump house for 44 consecutive hours. In all, both animals were kenneled for nearly three days and spent less than 15 minutes outdoors.

Photo: Los Angeles Police K-9 Fund/Facebook

Similarly, footage from this past weekend shows Kniss placing the dogs in the pump house on Thursday, September 17. He lets the dogs out for only five to six minutes each following day to give them food and remove their waste from the structure. As of 7 am today, the dogs remained kenneled.

The time lapse below shows Kniss letting the dogs out on Saturday, September 19. A full 24 hours passes in which he doesn’t visit the dogs.

When confronted about the amount of time his dogs spend caged, Kniss claimed all police dogs are kenneled. Over text, he told a friend of Pigozzi, “They cannot be treated as normal family pets.”

But according to the Los Angeles Times, police dogs typically live with their handlers and become part of their families, which is a necessary part of the dogs’ socialization.

The National Police Dog Foundation says that although some kenneling is normal after a long shift, “It is not uncommon for [police dogs] to come in the house on their days off, or even daily before or after their shift begins.”

Kniss’s neighbors don’t oppose the practice of kenneling, which may be beneficial in moderation. But they feel caging the dogs for multiple days with very little time outdoors is downright cruel.

“The issue is that they are being treated as appliances,” said Rippel. “Once the need for them is done, they’re put back in the closet, so to speak.”

Jeff Miller, who owns property in the neighborhood, expressed the same sentiment: “These dogs are just accessories to [Kniss]… What bothers me the most is his attitude of, ‘I’ll put them away and lock them up when they’re not in use.’ It’s an ethical problem.”

Witnesses say the dogs are separated by a chain-link fence Kniss has secured down the center of the structure, giving each dog about 50 square feet to roam.

Neighbors report the pump house has a drain in the middle of the floor, which Kniss uses to wash out the dogs’ urine and excrement. According to footage obtained by KNOCK.LA, the dogs only use the bathroom outside when Kniss lets them out for around 10 to 15 minutes per day. Occasionally, the pump house goes long enough without being washed that there’s a noticeable stench.

Kniss’ kenneled dogs are Belgian Malinois, a breed known for their intelligence and exceptional need for both physical activity and mental stimulation.

According to the American Kennel Club, “This is not a dog who can be left in the backyard, and daily walks are not enough, either. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with their owner, is paramount to the breed’s happiness.”

Neighbors argue the dogs aren’t receiving this necessary attention when they’re not working.

Rippel said of Kniss’ relationship to the dogs, “Besides him putting food in there and cleaning the waste out, there’s no personal engagement.”

Miller confirmed, “The dogs are isolated and pretty much ignored. They’re fed, but they don’t get out, they don’t run around… [Kniss] comes down occasionally to wash out the pump house, but never for exercise.” Miller paused then added incredulously, “I mean, what dog doesn’t get exercise?”

Photo: Los Angeles Police K-9 Fund

Nearby residents have witnessed the dogs pacing back and forth during the long hours they spend in the enclosure. KNOCK.LA has obtained footage that confirms these allegations.

“The dog was so psychologically disengaged that when I looked through the window, he was just spinning in circles endlessly. There wasn’t even an awareness I was there,” said one neighbor.

Social isolation, especially combined with a lack of exercise and stimulation, can have a deeply harmful effect in canines. Because dogs are pack animals, they require interaction with people and their environment. Dogs who don’t get this necessary stimulation often display signs of distress, such as obsessive pacing, destruction of food containers, and incessant barking.

Witnesses have reported all of these symptoms in Kniss’s canines. After a period when the dogs were reportedly locked in the pump house for over 24 hours, Rippel said, “I woke up at 4:50 am to loud crying, and they were continually flipping over their food bowl.”

Neighbor Guy Botham corroborated: “I can attest to the dog bowl tossing. It’s very disturbing to hear them so distressed.”

Kniss’ frequent isolation of his dogs has the potential to harm people, too. Aggression, fear biting, and lunging are also symptoms of social isolation in canines. Based on data from 1992 and 2013, LAPD has repeatedly had the highest bite rate of any city in the US, and — like other forms of brutality by law enforcement — police dog attacks disproportionately affect Los Angeles’ Black and Brown communities.

Photo: Los Angeles Police K-9 Fund/Facebook

Kniss’ neighbors have come to see his attitude toward both them and his dogs as a symptom of the same bullish police culture — largely immune to punishment or consequence — against which activists are fighting.

“To cops, who they are takes precedence over everything else. There’s a bullying component to it,” said Botham.

Neighbors took their first actions against Kniss’ mistreatment of the dogs in June of 2019. At the time, the dogs barked incessantly while they were kenneled. An informal neighborhood council — headed by Botham — brought their complaints to Pigozzi’s estate.

Neighbor Jeff Miller said of the barking, “I’m not a dog psychologist, but it seemed abnormal in its duration. It was kind of neurotic behavior.” Constant barking is a common symptom of distress in socially isolated dogs.

In an attempted resolution, Kniss placed a bark collar on the animals, which shocks them when they grow too loud.

According to several neighbors, the shock collars only put a bandaid over the real issue. Kniss’ response appeased some people involved in the council, since the dogs’ barking lessened, but the situation continues to upset many residents. They argue shock collars only exacerbate the cruelty.

In one video obtained by KNOCK.LA from September 17, one of the dogs barks and then immediately whines and yelps, presumably in response to the shock collar’s activation. Botham describes the collars as “horrible in their own way.”

Rippel agrees. “The real issue for me,” he explained, “is that they’re in there for 23 hours a day, and sometimes it’s that way for two to three days, and sometimes it’s that way for a month.”

Neighbor Frank Beddor recalled going on a walk with his children and being disturbed by what he witnessed.

“I walked over with my two kids because they were curious, and then the dogs started to really whine. I just thought, ‘This is not normal.’ It was very stressful for my children,” said Beddor.

Rippel and Botham have communicated with Pigozzi’s estate multiple times, and the art collector is reportedly aware of the conditions in which Kniss’ dogs are living.

Botham described Kniss’ attitude toward his neighbors’ concerns as flippant.

“[Kniss] is dismissive of me and the neighbors. He didn’t listen. He didn’t understand. To me, it’s indicative of cops’ attitude in general toward their community and toward their own animals,” said Botham.

Rippel explained, “He’s aware of the issue. Nothing’s been done. For a lot of people, these things are somewhat abstract, but when you truly live next to something like that, there’s an emotional tie to these animals.”

At the time of this article’s publication, Kniss could not be reached for comment.