Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Police Shot My Dog!

No, the police really didn't shoot my dog. However, this is something that does happen and it concerns us not only as dog owners, but as individuals that are possibly going into law enforcement ourselves. This may not seem to be a problem to you, as a student, but as an active member of a 501(c)3 non for profit dog rescue, and strong advocate for the American Pit Bull Terrier, this is something that I run into almost on a weekly basis throughout the country.

Pictured above is one such incident. Despite what it may look like in the photo, that police officer had already shot and killed the dog while almost one thousand bystanders watched. According to the foster of the dog that was being fostered through a local rescue, they were attending a festival, and his foster dog turned around and bit a poodle as they passed. The dog's foster had already separated the two dogs when two policemen arrived and one police officer drew his handgun and shot the dog, immediately killing him (Zapotosky, 2010). Surprisingly enough, this happens more often than you would think and then officers are barely even reprimanded, if even that, simply because it's a dog.

In another such incident, a family came home to a note on their door from the police stating that during their response to a false burglary claim they had shot their dog. The police stated that the 11 year old arthritic dog had advanced on them growling when they police advanced onto the property. The officer felt threatened, and therefore shot and killed the dog (User, 2010). Where does that leave the owners, whom say the dog has never acted aggressively towards anyone in the entire 11 years that they had owned her? This dog was acting as I hope anyone's dog would act. She was defending her home from intruders she did not know while her human family was gone. It isn't clear if the dog was in a fenced in area or loose, or if the officers had entered the home. However, you would think that if a dog is advancing on you growling, that you would take the hint and get out of there, not shoot the dog.

Case law plays a big part in helping owners to defend the rights of their family and their pets. Cause of action must be determined, and unfortunately depending on what state the incident occurs, cause of action may be determined in one state, and not in another state for the exact same case (Roudebush, 2002).

It is important to note that for most states, animals, and sometimes specifically dogs, are considered to be personal property. The most common way for a dog to be shot and killed by a police officer is during search warrant executions. It can be argued that the killing of an animal could be considered an "unlawful search and seizure" and therefore a "violation of our fourth amendment rights" (Roudebush, 2002).

Although personal property is not specifically stated in the Fourth Amendment the Surpreme Court has ruled that:

In the context of personal property...our cases reveal some general principles regarding seizures. In the ordinary case, the Court has viewed a seizure of personal property as "per se" unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment unless it is accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant issued upon probable cause and particularly describing the items to be seized (Roudebush, 2002).

In simplier terms what this is saying is that if in a particular state, dogs are defined as "personal property" and during the issuance of a search warrant, a dog is shot that has not been stated in the warrant as an item to be seized, then the dog owner has cause of action to pursue compensation for the loss of their pet.

I have barely even touched base on the laws or violations to our rights that occur when police officers shoot dogs, but instead have given a few examples and a small overview of the rights we have as dog owners against officers that do this.

In closing, I'd like to ask what are your thoughts as a future police officer? As a dog owner? Should there be more laws to protect dog owners from officers unjustly shooting their pets simply because the officer had said "they felt threatened"? Wouldn't an officer with a fear of dogs, ALWAYS feel threatened by a dog advancing on them? In the case of the 11 year old dog, how do you think YOUR dog would respond to an intruder when you weren't at home? I could ask many more questions, but I'm going to open the floor to comments instead.


Roudebush, P. (2002). Detailed Discussion of Police Shooting Pets. Michigan State University College of Law. Retrieved from

Zapotosky, M. (2010, September 18). Police Fatally Shoot Dog at Adams Morgan Festival. Alexander Higgins Blog. Retrieved from

User Submitted. (2010, October 2nd). Police Shoot Family Dog, Leave Note on Door. Newser. Retrieved from


  1. My family has owned dogs my entire life and since I was 16 I have worked in numerous dog related jobs and the fact that police officers have shot and killed dogs simply disgusts me. In the first incident where the dog bit the poodle I don't think the officer had any right to shoot the dog. The owners had already broken it up and it doesn't seem like anyone was in any sort of danger when the dog was shot. The other story you told about the officers killing a dog when they were there on a false burglary report is absolutely absurd. The owners weren't home and the dog growled defending the home and they shot it?! What kind of (excuse my language) pussy officer responded to that call? I think that there should be some more rights that come with dogs because if this happened to me I would be livid.

  2. I think that officers killing dogs is an absolute disgrace. In the two incidents examined in the article the police officers had no right to shoot the dogs. The first case the dogs had already been separated, if anything the police should only have been involved if the two owners could not resolve the conflict. In the second case where the officer shot the dog on a false burglary call absolutely disgusted me. Most dogs would growl at strangers on their own property. Most animals are territorial so it is their nature to warn off intruders. If the dog just growled the officer should have gotten off the property, if the dog attacked than the officer may have had to kill it to protect himself. I think that there are certain instances where an officer may have to kill a dog, but in most cases it can be avoided. If someone has a guard dog and sends it to attack an officer he/she has every right to shot the dog to protect him/herself. If an officer believes a dog has done something wrong (bite another dog) but doesn't pose an immediate threat it is not the officers job to play god and decided whether or not the dog lives.

  3. I can't believe this is even a topic of conversation to be honest. Since when do we put the lives of animals and pets above the lives of humans? In the example of the the 11 year old arthritic dog, who's to say that dog wasn't going to attack the officer who was just trying to do his job and investigate a call? Just because the dog was arthritic means that it can't attack and injure someone? Let's get real. My family owned a dog who was 14 years old, arthritic and blind and it attacked a 7 year old boy who was just petting it. The boy needed surgery in order to save his vision in his right eye and that dog had never attacked anyone. It honestly really bothers me that people these days are beginning to put animals above humans. I exercised my right to defend myself from dogs when I was on patrol in Iraq, and I'll do the same thing if need be when I become a police officer because no dogs life is worth me or anyone else getting hurt over.

  4. Wow! This article actually makes me really upset. I have heard of police shooting dogs when they felt that they were going to bite their head off, but not just because they kind of felt threatened. I adopted my dog when she was one year old and she is now five and let me tell you she does not like it when someone she does not know comes into the house. That is perfectly natural for a dog to behave this way! From the picture it looks like the dog is a pit bull, which is probably why the officer shot it. People are so ignorant it makes me mad! Wanting to become a police officer myself I can promise right now I will not be shooting any dogs unless my life is TRULY in danger. Officers need to learn that these are not only pets, but they are also family members.

  5. If a police officer ever shot my dog for such a bogus reason as they entered my home because of a false burglary call and felt threatened, I don't know what I would do. I would be very upset and my dog was doing nothing wrong then defending my home. Officers that shoot dogs like that should be punished for their cruel acts. I found the 4th amendment rights part of this passage very interesting and I had never known that. I hope that in the future there are more laws to protect the dogs from being shot by officers.

  6. Wow, I can't even describe how upset and mad I would be if a police officer ever shot my dog. This is something that I actually do worry about a little bit because my dog barks when he sees someone in my yard or house that he doesn't recognize. He's a golden retriever so he is more of a welcome wagon than a guard dog, but he sounds kind of mean. I think that in both instances these officers were completely out of line. If a dog is going to attack, you can usually tell and if they make an aggressive move toward you, you can most likely shoot it before you would be harmed. I can understand both sides of this argument because my dog and I have been attacked by my neighbor's dog, but a well placed water hose discouraged him. I think that perhaps if officers tried to use other methods such as pepper spray or had tazers designed for dogs that would solve the problem. There should be less than lethal methods.

  7. I don’t think that the officer had the right to shot the dog. They were separated already, and there was no danger to the public. The officer made a mistake. Now I am not saying that dog should be placed higher than people. If a person was in danger of the dog then I would agree that the officer should shoot the dog. But since no one was in danger the officer screwed up and killed and dog that was not a threat to the public

  8. The officer definitely didn’t have a right to shoot and kill the dog that bit the smaller dog. Dogs get in fights all the time and it didn’t seem like he was being a danger to any other dogs or human. A simple, "can you take your dog home" could have sufficed. As for the other incident, I know I would be devastated if that ever happened to me. I'm not saying its right, but if the officer felt threatened then he/she had every right to protect him/herself. Yes, the officer could have waiting until the dog was an actual threat and not just growling. We should treat animals humanely and police officers should also protect the rights of animals. However, if an officer is in actual danger from a dog, then they have every right to shoot in self-defense.

  9. I must agree with Hilary on this. The officer had no right to kill that dog. I use to have a dog and he would get into fights with other dogs in the neighborhood but never did an officer say anything about having to shoot and kill him because of it. Although I do understand that if the dog had bitten or was attacking a person then i could see the officer shooting the dog to protect the people.