What If The Police Shoot My Dog?

Another area that has come up recently in Dog Law, is the wrongful injury, or death of an animal when the police are involved. Police often claim qualified immunity, and argue that the dog’s actions force them to make the decision to shoot a dog, because they were in fear of their safety.

The police officers state of mind, or intent, should be left to a jury. However, when qualified immunity is applied, it can shield a police officer from federal constitutional claims. Though it is important to remember, in order to allow for qualified immunity, the police officer’s actions must have been reasonable. Shooting a dog, even one that is off the owner’s property, is unreasonable as long as the dog is not posing a threat.

Anna Morrison-Ricordati practices civil litigation and animal law in Chicago, Illinois.

Handling all aspects of dispute resolution, Anna has represented individual and business clients in mediations, arbitrations, jury and bench trials, equitable remedies, and appeals.

She is a past Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Animal Law Section Council (2010-2011), past Chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee (2012-2013), and Chair of the DuPage County Bar Association’s Animal Law Section (2014-2015)

In this CLE class clip, Anna discusses Wrongful Injury & Death – What if the police shoot my dog?

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The use of deadly force against a household pet is allowed only in the event that officers are eminent danger, and the use of force is unavoidable. Thirty-nine percent of households in America are likely to have animals, making the chances officers will eventually come in contact with a personal pet substantial. Therefore, it is important officers receive training, in order to deal with dogs properly, and within the constitutional rights of dog owners.

The 4th amendment of the constitution offers pet owners some form of protection, just like any other civil rights claim, and shooting a dog without due cause, is a violation. The constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure claims apply here.

For example in 2005, the 9th circuit denied qualified immunity, to the police officers who shot dogs while searching a home. The court stated that a reasonable officer should have known, that to create a plan to enter a persons property, knowing the dogs where there, and not providing for a plan to subdue them other than killing them, would violate the 4th amendment.