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Michigan Federal Court Rules Police Can Shoot Moving or Barking Dogs

By Aly Semigran    January 03, 2017 at 03:15PM / (14) comments

In a shocking and controversial decision, a Michigan federal court granted police the right to shoot a dog that moves or barks at them when they are inside a household. 

 

According to an NBC Columbus affiliate, "The decision stems from an incident in Battle Creek, Michigan where police shot and killed dog[s] while executing a search warrant on a home looking for drugs." 

 

NBC4i.com uploaded the court documents, in which Mark and Cheryl Brown filed a petition to hold both the city and police of Battle Creek responsible for the deaths of their two Pit Bulls back in 2013, when their property was seized. 

 

In the petition, the Browns maintain that the police acted unreasonably when they fatally shot both Pit Bulls during the home search. But the responding officers in the case state that at least one of the dogs "lunged" at them, and they did not have the ability to "safely clear the basement" of the house with the dogs present, according to the court papers.

 

The City of Battle Creek Police Department policy states: "Officers may use response to resistance when the officer reasonably believes that the action is in defense of human life, including the officers own life, or in defense of any person in imminent danger or serious physical injury." They also define a "dangerous animal" as one that "bites or attacks another person or animal." 

 

The Fourth Circuit decided that the officers acted reasonably in the situation. As the document notes, "[W]e are not saying the officers’ responses in these cases were the best possible responses. We are only saying that, under the circumstances existing at the time the officers took the actions and in light of the facts known by the officers, their actions were objectively reasonable....Even dog owners can find their pets to be unpredictable at times."

 

Judge Eric Clay wrote in the ruling, "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." This decision will give other police in similar situations the right to shoot a dog that they perceive as a threat to their safety and the safety of others. 

 

The ruling has upset and concerned many pet parents and advocates in the region who want to ensure the safety of both officers and animals alike.

 

The Michigan Humane Society spoke to petMD regarding the decision.  "The Michigan Humane Society has a long history of collaboration with law enforcement. In addition to training law enforcement personnel in animal behavior, MHS works directly on cases involving animal cruelty and provides support to police in other activities," says Matthew Pepper, president and CEO of MHS. "While we unquestionably support law enforcement, MHS is disappointed by a recent federal court ruling allowing police to shoot a dog if it moves or barks when an officer enters a home. The Michigan Humane Society believes that law enforcement should only shoot a dog when there is a true and real threat to personal or public safety."

 

Many animal welfare supporters believe that law enforcement officials would benefit from specific training in how to peacefully handle animals in these situations. "Proper training in basic animal behavior and other animal-related topics can provide law enforcement the foundation it needs to interact with animals on the job and in a manner that is safe to the personnel involved and the animals encountered," says Pepper.

 

Image via Shutterstock 

Comments  14

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  • Police kill owner's dogs
    01/11/2017 07:39pm

    I don't understand why these policemen didn't ask that the owners take their dogs outside while they searched the house. I completely disagree with the Federal Court's defense of these policemen. There is really no defensible reason for the policemen to have shot and killed the owner's dogs.

  • 01/13/2017 02:27am

    Agreed. I remember the original story and there was no reason to kill these dogs. The court backing this is ridiculous. This happens too often. A friend's dog was shot by police in Southern California while tied to a pole! This was apparently because she is a Cane Corso. They refused to help get her to a vet. Later the police dept. refused to take a complaint. Fortunately she survived but too often this is not the case.

  • 01/13/2017 03:55pm

    Yeah-they should have asked the owners to remove the dogs safely instead of just executing them. This is an appalling decision. If an animal is on its own property it should not be killed outright.

  • 01/19/2017 09:25pm

    Maybe departments need to train their officers to deal with issues. Might cut down on the amount of bad press they're experiencing. I totally agree that this is a bad decision.

  • Training
    01/19/2017 09:23pm

    I find it disgusting that police departments don't train officers to deal with pets. It's not that difficult and such training is often helpful in other situations. I've never been bitten by any dog, even when the dogs were agitated or fighting.

    An officer comes into my house and shoots any pet, they will find themselves in court. Maybe a lot of the backlash the public is expressing against police officers has to do with incidents where the lack of training has caused the officer to over react.

    The court has made a bad decision that will end up biting them in their tushies.

  • Go Animals
    01/19/2017 09:32pm

    What kind of people are we allowing to sit on the bench and make stupid decisions??? Make the owners put the dogs in the other room, if they will not shoot them in the leg bet they will change their mind fast enough.
    I am not surprised by this decision coming from Michigan court, this is not the first time a cop was wrong and got away with it.

    As usual Federal Courts screw up...

  • SHOOT HAPPY COPS
    01/19/2017 11:27pm

    COPS: ~ WHERE THE DOGS POINTING A GUN AT THEM; I DON'T THINK SO. DID THEY PHYSICALLY ATTACK ONE? OR DID THEY JUST BARK? WHEN STRANGERS ENTER A HOUSE, THAT'S WHAT DOGS DO, BARK AT THEM & EVEN GO TO SMELL THEM. THAT'S THEIR NATURAL INSTINCT. THEY SHOULD NOT BE SHOT BECAUSE OF IT. SHOOT HAPPY COPS & WOEFULLY MISDIRECTED COURT.

  • I FEEL THIS IS WRONG
    01/19/2017 11:42pm

    I HAVE A LITTLE YORKIE, SHE BARKS AT ANYONE. WOULD NOT HURT NO ONE. AND JUST BECAUSE SHE BARKS GIVE THEM THE RIGHT TO SHOOT HER. THIS IS WRONG. A BIG OVER GROWN MAN OR WOMAN GOING TO BE IN FEAR OF A LITTLE DOGS BARK. GET REAL

  • Paul777
    01/20/2017 01:06am

    As if American cops aren't already trigger happy enough.
    A dogs bark when an aggressive stranger barges into a house is an unreasonable response from the dog?
    What'll be the next excuse? The parrot looked at me sideways so I shot it in self-defense? The cat stalked me in a menacing manner?
    What a pathetic joke. The worlds going mad.

  • Bad Ruling by MI Courts
    01/20/2017 06:02am

    This is a bad ruling by the Federal Courts in Michigan by taking the rights away from the animal who is there to protect its domain and the humans it lives with. Dogs on an average, will bark when strangers appear at the door, or when police or any stranger enters a home they don't live in. Instead it should be ruled wherein a police officer when entering a home cannot kill a dog unless it can show proof that the dog was attacking them. Otherwise, if the people who reside in the home are present, that they be instructed to remove their dogs from the situation, or if no one is home at the time, these officers should be trained in how to control a barking dog inside a home they are doing a search warrant. The dog should not be brutally murdered with guns or other weapons because the dog is fearful itself for an intruder as well as those he is there to protect.

  • Over-turn MI Law
    01/20/2017 06:07am

    This is a bad move by Michigan Law in that you are taking the rights of the animal away from its owner. Most dogs bark when a stranger appears at the door, or inside the house that doesn't reside there. A dog senses this and in order to protect or alert its owners, it barks. It shouldn't be gunned down because of this or pacing the floor either. This is natural for dogs when they are fearful of what the stranger might do. The only time a dog should be shot is when it has lunged someone and tackled them to the floor and not shot dead either, but wounded to make to make a recovery, but enough to detain it from hurting someone, and only if you can snow proof this dog was vicious. The police don't have the right to destroy someone's property whether materialistic or that of an animal when they enter the home. Michigan should over-turn this law. You are putting too much power in the police hands, by killing innocent animals. If the owners are present, ask them to remove their barking dogs.

  • Death of pets by Police
    01/21/2017 10:44pm

    Why are not police asking people to take dogs outside, to someone that is familiar to dogs. There is no need to KILL someone's pet unnecessarily.
    All this is fear on the Police side of a possible attack. Police are not being trained well. The Federal Court's decision is that of laziness-not willing to listen to the public. The norm is attitude doesn't change until the same kind of violence happens to their pets. That is most unfortunate.

  • Shoot first???
    01/23/2017 03:18am

    I have a dog that barks at everybody when they come in. What she's saying is 'pet me pet me'.
    I'm afraid I'd lose it if a cop shot her and end up in jail.

  • Barking Dog
    02/09/2017 09:33pm

    Glad we don't live in Michigan, our dog barks at everybody. She is guarding her home. However, she wouldn't attack anyone unless she fells threatened or she thinks we are being threatened.


 
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