Grand Rapids, MI-The ASPCA estimates that there are 70 to 80 million dogs living in U.S. households across the U.S. That’s a huge number of dogs at risk of being shot by a police officer for simply acting like a dog. In a ruling that horrifies dog owners nationwide, a federal appeals court ruled that police have the right to shoot a dog if it moves or barks when responding an officer enters a person’s home.
The ruling arose out of a Battle Creek, Michigan case in which a couple’s two pit bulls were shot by an officer while an officer was searching the home for drugs. The homeowners, Mark and Cheryl Brown, warned the officer their two dogs were inside and offered them a key to gain entry. But the officer busted down the door instead, later claiming he did not hear the homeowners.
When the officer busted down the door, one of the dogs inside, acting on instinct to protect, lunged at the officer. That’s when Officer Christof Klein shot at the first dog which then ran off to hide in home’s basement. When Klein entered the basement, the first dog was standing in his way, barking, so one of the three officers conducting the search of the home fatally shot the dog.
When the officers encountered the second dog, which was “just standing there” and barking, per court testimony, they shot and killed that dog as well, according to Penn Live. They claimed that the dog lunged them, a claim the Browns dispute.
After their beloved pets had been callously and cowardly shot, Mark and Cheryl Brown filed a lawsuit against the Battle Creek Police Department, alleging the law enforcement agency violated their constitutional rights against unreasonable seizures.
In their suit, the Brown’s claim that killing their dogs was equivalent to the unlawful seizure of property which violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. An appeals court judge disagreed, stating that the Brown’s claim did not prove that their rights were violated. Judge Eric Gray concluded, “The seizures of the dogs, in this case, were reasonable given the specific circumstances surrounding the raid.”
The federal appeals court concluded that police were correct to use force and legitimately felt as though they were in danger because they had evidence that a gang member was using the home to distribute drugs and officers had no idea of the gang members were in the home.
To many dog owners, this ruling is outrageous. Why aren’t police trained to recognize the different behaviors in dogs? Certainly, there are instances in which an officer is in danger of being attacked, but there are too many cases in which police shoot dogs that pose no danger to them or others.
While the decision, in this case, was disappointing, it may not apply in all courts in the U.S. However; it does set a precedent that could impact similar cases.