New Rules About When Cops Can Shoot Your Dog

December 28th 2016

Mike Rothschild

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit handed down a ruling in what's become an extremely contentious issue: when police can shoot a dog. And the ruling is a broad one; police can shoot a dog for barking or for simply moving toward an officer, according to NBC Chicago.

While searching the Battle Creek, Michigan, home of Mark and Cheryl Brown back in 2013, police shot their two pitbulls. The Browns then filed a lawsuit against both the city and the police, claiming that killing the dogs was an unlawful seizure of property in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Officers searching the home for a possible connection to a known drug dealer told the court that the dogs were aggressively barking and lunging in their direction, and a district court agreed that the shooting was reasonable.

But the Browns appealed, believing the killing of the two dogs was unwarranted and overly aggressive. In particular, they alleged that the second dog was simply standing still and barking when officers shot it twice, then shot it again to put it out of its misery.

The U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals issued its ruling earlier this week, agreed with the initial ruling, and the court issued a new standard for when police can and can't shoot a dog.

While the ruling agreed that killing an animal willy-nilly is unconstitutional, the court also believed that the officers in question acted reasonably. They had no knowledge of the dogs before going into the house, and were forced to act because the animals' aggressive reactions made it difficult for them to do their jobs. The ruling stated:

"Thus, the standard we set out today is that a police officer's use of deadly force against a dog while executing a warrant to search a home for illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when, given the totality of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer, the dog poses an imminent threat to the officer's safety."

The Browns' suit was one of a number of lawsuits filed against police in Michigan related to the killing of dogs.