A Police Officer Can Shoot And Kill Your Dog If It Barks Or Moves, Court Rules

A police officer can shoot and kill your dog for no other reason than if it moves or barks, a federal court has ruled.

As Reason reports, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that police officers in Battle Creek, Michigan, did nothing wrong in shooting and killing two family dogs during a search of the home of Mark and Cheryl Brown in 2013.

Police can kill your dog
Mark and Cheryl Brown's two dogs were killed by police during a drug raid. [Image by bibiphoto/Shutterstock]

On the day of the raid, officers burst through the Browns’ door. The first of the Browns’ two pit bulls to die that day “had only moved a few inches,” according to court transcripts, when an officer shot and killed it. The family’s other dog ran downstairs. When officers went downstairs, the second dog was found down there. By the officers’ admission, she was not threatening anyone.

“The second dog was not moving towards the officers when they discovered her in the basement, but rather she was ‘just standing there,’ barking and was turned sideways to the officers. [Officer] Klein then fired the first two rounds at the second dog.”

Police can kill your dog
Mark and Cheryl Browns' two pit bulls were killed by police. [Image by RAYBON/Shutterstock]

Two years later, in 2015, the Browns sued, claiming that the Battle Creek officers had violated their Constitutional rights. Specifically, they said the officers’ actions that day violated their Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. This week, the Court ruled that the officers’ actions were reasonable because the cops had no prior knowledge that there would be dogs in the home. Further, the Court ruled, no witnesses came forward to challenge the cops’ narrative of what happened that day.

“Officer Klein testified that the dog, a 53-pound unleashed pit bull, was standing in the middle of the basement, barking, when he fired the first two rounds. The officers testified that they were unable to safely clear the basement with both dogs there. Therefore, we find that it was reasonable for Officer Klein to shoot the second dog.”

The Sixth Circuit Court includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, so in those states, for the time being, police will no be able to shoot and kill dogs with little to no provocation. Or, as Reason blogger C.J. Ciaramella, puts it:

“The Sixth Circuit’s definition of ‘reasonableness’ here is so broad that it would it appear to classify any dog that is not standing still and silent as an imminent threat.”

Across the country, police shoot and kill dogs at a rate that is so alarming, according to Quartz, that the Justice Department took a look at the situation. It’s tough to nail down how many dogs are killed by police, since police departments generally don’t keep records of this sort of thing. But by some estimates, cops kill as many as 25 to 30 pet dogs per day.

Policies for when and how police officers can shoot and kill dogs vary from police department to police department; and in fact, some police departments don’t even have official policies.

In Sacramento, according to KXTV, police do their best to avoid shooting pets if at all possible. For example, when going to a home where dogs are known to live, they will ask the homeowners to put the dog outside or in a different room. Failing that, Sacramento cops will use pepper spray, although Officer Matthew McPhail, spokesperson for the Sacramento Police Department, says that pepper spray is less effective on dogs than it is on humans. Regardless, shooting and killing the animal is a last resort, at least in Sacramento.

“You can’t just indiscriminately shoot a dog just because they’re mean.”

While Sacramento’s policies may appear more humane, it appears as if, at least in districts covered by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, they are unnecessary, and police will be allowed to shoot and kill dogs for virtually any reason or no reason at all.

[Featured Image by InBetweentheBlinks/Shutterstock]