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 http://www.animallaw.info/articles/dduspoliceshootingpets.htm
Zapotosky, M. (2010, September 18). Police Fatally Shoot Dog at Adams Morgan Festival. Alexander Higgins Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2010/09/18/police-fatally-shoot-dog-at-adams-morgan-festival.-5307/
User Submitted. (2010, October 2nd). Police Shoot Family Dog, Leave Note on Door. Newser. Retrieved from http://www.newser.com/story/102003/police-shoot-family-dog-leave-note-on-door.html