A recent federal court ruling states that once a police officer has entered a home, he or she may shoot a dog if it barks or just moves. This decision has caused animal lovers much concern.
It started when a home in Battle Creek, Michigan was searched for drugs in 2013. When the police officers approached the home, there were two pit bulls in the residence. While a man outside the home said he had a key to the house, the police used a ram to break open the front door.
The officers claim that one of the dogs barked aggressively at them. Many extremely docile and friendly dogs will bark if someone breaks into their home. This dog did the same, but was immediately shot. The shot dog and the other dog ran into the basement. The officers shot the injured dog again when it was at the bottom of the basement stairs barking at them.
It’s what happened to the second dog that is the most heartbreaking part of the story. The opinion on the appeal states the facts:
“Officer Klein testified that after he shot and killed the first dog, he noticed the second dog standing about halfway across the basement. 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. Klein then fired the first two rounds at the second dog. After being shot by Officer Klein, the second dog ran to the back corner of the basement. The second pit bull was in this corner when Officer Young, who was also clearing the basement, shot her because she was “moving” out of the corner and in his direction. After being shot by Officers Klein and Young, the second pit bull ran to the back of the furnace in the back corner of the basement. Officer Case saw that “[t]here was blood coming out of numerous holes in the dog, and . . . [Officer Case] didn’t want to see it suffer” so he put her out of her misery and fired the last shot.”
So, in the case of Mark Brown and Cheryl Brown, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v Battle Creek Police Department, et al., Defendants-Appellees, the appellate court upheld the granting of summary judgment by the district court. While the dogs belonged to the Browns, they were in the residence of a known drug dealer named Jones. The opinion goes on to state that:
Given Jones’ criminal history, gang affiliations, the types of drugs he was suspected of distributing, the fact that the officers had no time to plan for the dogs, in addition to the officers’ unrebutted testimony that the dogs either lunged or were barking aggressively at the officers, the nature and size of the dogs, the fact that the dogs were unleashed and loose in a small residence, all culminate into a finding that the officers acted reasonably when they shot and killed the two dogs. Viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, we find that a jury would conclude that Officer Klein, Officer Young, and Officer Case acted reasonably in shooting and killing Plaintiffs’ dogs. Summary judgment was therefore appropriate.”
The complete opinion can be found here. The dogs (bully breeds) below need rescue or adoption.
What does this mean for dog owners everywhere? Most have already read news articles about police officers going to the wrong address and shooting a dog that barks at them. It’s imperative that people secure their dogs before answering the door. Some people have said that they invite the local police to meet their dogs to see that they are friendly. There are probably no hard-and-fast answers, but in light of increased adoptions of pit bulls and other bully breeds, there may be more instances of officers coming into contact with these dogs that have such a misplaced negative reputation.
Keep your dogs safe. Keep them leashed at all times. Get involved in animal advocacy on a local level.
(Note: Dog in large photo is Avril. She is at the San Bernardino City Shelter (California) and needs adoption or rescue.)