Law Enforcement Today Article Advises Police not to Kill Family Dogs

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Gunner was shot in the neck by an off-duty Texas officer who claimed the boxer attacked him, his wife and his dog.  Twelve-year-old Dalton Fitzhenry says Gunner was just curious and sniffing the other dog when officer Mark Condon fired at point-blank range.
Gunner was shot in the neck by an off-duty Texas officer who claimed the boxer attacked him, his wife and his dog. Twelve-year-old Dalton Fitzhenry says Gunner was just curious and sniffing the other dog when officer Mark Condon fired at point-blank range.


With the number of frequent shootings by police against non-aggressive family dogs, it’s about time we see something being done within the police community. Online magazine Law Enforcement Today has recently published an article warning officers not to shoot loved family dogs.

James P. Gaffney, author of the article, is an LET risk management/police administration contributor to the publication, and served with a metro-New York police department for more than 25 years as a patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant and executive officer. He brings to light the popular opinion that dogs are not just pets, but “valued family members,” and that the preferred term is now “canine companion.”

Police are supposed to use objective reasonableness, i.e. common sense, when they are on the job. Approaching an unknown dog, or entering a dog’s territory, can incite an attack. Then police officers shoot, and cry self-defense. Well, if they thought a situation through using common sense and compassion, their deadly actions might not have been necessary. A siren or a loudspeaker could be used to alert an owner to their presence and to suggest their dog be safely secured instead of just barging onto a property and killing a dog for defending its territory and family from an intruder.

Dogs are excellent at sensing danger, and if they come across people they perceive as a threat, they might immediately become defensive and attack. As trained on the job, police can come across as menacing, something a nervous dog can certainly sense, and may act on.

Officers are trained to take whatever measures are necessary to protect themselves. Of course, officers have the expectation of self-protection from dogs that are attacking. But officers should not be employing a “shoot first, think later” mentality in cases where they enter a property clearly marked “Beware of Dog(s),” when they come across friendly runaways or when dogs are merely running toward them but not attacking.  And how many times now have we heard stories of police shooting dogs on the wrong property?  Don’t they have GPS?  

7.10.13 - Law Enforcement Today1
Star was critically injured by officers when trying to protect her owner, a homeless man, who was having a seizure. After down on the ground having just been shot, another officer continued shooting the clearly injured dog.


It is natural for a dog to run up to a person they do not know, but it is not fair to assume they are running to attack. There is other clear body language that officers should be able to recognize, just as they are trained to recognize body language in humans. Should it become necessary to use protective measures against a dog, pepper spray could disable, and a baton could stun. But many officers just whip out their guns and shoot, not giving a moment’s thought to the fact that they are robbing a family of a beloved member just because they got scared and couldn’t hold themselves together.  And yeah, so their training requires them to fire multiple shots when shooting.  Are they so brainwashed that they are only running on instinct and autopilot (isn’t that reassuring?), and can’t use their brains to think to fire a single shot towards a leg, aiming only to injure but not kill?  Or what about firing a shot into the sky, which might be loud enough to frighten the dog off?  Why do they not retreat, letting a dog know they are not in danger?  (This seems simple enough, but clearly is challenging concept.)  And why is there such blatant disregard for anything else that might be injured?  Many bullets are through-and-through, or ricochet, leaving the possibility that others can be killed in their reckless gun shows of cowardice.

If “regular” citizens can receive up to a 20-year prison sentence for killing a police dog (many of which have viciously attacked people, unable to distinguish between ordinary citizens and “perps”), then why is there such a double standard for police officers? Why are they above the law and the people they are meant to protect and serve? It seems that more and more these days, we need protection from them.

Well, police now can be held accountable in the case of wrongful death of a dog. It is illegal for officers to seize a dog by deadly physical force unless the actions taken are deemed objectively reasonable pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. Law enforcement officers know about objective reasonableness when using force against humans (though not all of them apply it), it is new for courts to recognize that this can apply to dogs killed in the line of duty.

When courts sets precedents in their rulings, it can take a long time for police law to catch up. At a conference attended by Gaffney last month, he learned from Chicago attorney Laura Scarry that shooting a family dog could be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This amendment grants US citizens the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, protected from unreasonable arrests and seizures. Federal courts are now recognizing a dog as an “effect.”

This precedent is the result of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the case of Fuller v Vines, 36 F.3d 65,68 (9th Cir. 1994), where it was ruled in favor of the defendant and enabled protection of dogs against wrongful death. The Bill of Rights has flexibility that allows for changes to be made as societal expectations change, and many in society want their dogs to be protected not only by the law, but from it.

Police dogs are considered valued members of the force, and “ordinary” dogs are considered valued members of families. It is time they are recognized as such and treated accordingly; with caution and respect, as police would expect anyone who approaches their dogs.



78 thoughts on “Law Enforcement Today Article Advises Police not to Kill Family Dogs”

  1. Shoot the damn police officers. Bastards. If an officer shot my dog, they would be sued BIG TIME.I would sue them for every dollar they had, and more…

  2. You are exactly right, it is not the dog’s fault. It is the owner’s. As a dog owner, it is YOUR responsibility to keep YOUR dog in your yard, on YOUR leash keeping it in control. Take responsibility!! If you don’t want police officers to shoot YOUR dog in your yard or house, either don’t call them for help(do us all a favor) or lock YOUR dog in a room if an officer is at YOUR house. If a strange dog runs up to me & I have a gun, it will be shot!!

    • Regarding Seriously?!

      Did you read the article, the owner was having a seizure, the dog was protecting his master….please read the article before passing judgement on US “owners”, and the past shooting, the animals “dogs” were on leashes or restraint and need NOT to be shot.

      • So it is ok for u to judge a police officer but not for me to judge dog owners? Complete hypocrisy. It does NOT matter if the dog was protecting his owner, if the dogs were on a leash(they obviously were not being kept under control). Police officers have a second to secure a situation. They don’t have time to figure out if the dog is friendly or not. It sad
        to hear that u or anyone else would put another person’s life in a dangerous position.

        • So the poor man, as well as suffering from a seizure, should have made sure that he kept his dog on a leash? How many times have you been able to think about holding onto a leash while having a seizure?

          Bottom line – the cops doing this sort of thing should use that little thing between their ears called their brain and use it to show some common sense rather than being trigger happy.

          Yes, owners should be responsible for their dogs, but when a dog is restrained on private property, protecting its territory and owners then it is doing nothing wrong and neither are its owners. And in the case of the man having a seizure, what the hell was he supposed to do? Matters were out of his hands and some discretion and common sense should have been shown. But I take it that it’s okay for a cop to shoot first and ask questions later?

          There are so many other methods that could be employed rather than reaching first for a gun. Here in the UK cops don’t carry guns (a totally different subject for debate) so that don’t go around shooting dogs. On the occasions that it may be necessary to deal with a dog methods are used and done so quite effectively. Guess what? The Police here are actually trained in how to handle a situation involving a dog rather than assuming that a bullet will solve everything.

        • I bet your either one of those pecker head cops use to be a pecker head cop or just a dumbass cat owner. Sounds to me you’ve never known the love a dog can give to its owner so how about you keep your pecker head opinion to yourself. I own three wonderful pits that protect my home and honestly it would be hard to nor want to shoot the officers who are on my private land and just up and kill my family member. And the officer in Colorado should be castrated for his ignorance.

        • You are obviously not very intelligent are you? Dogs, might not have most rights like we humans do, but they are still entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

          The police officer could have ran or hid behind something or climbed onto something. He didn’t have to shoot the dog to “secure the situation”. It wasn’t his right to kill that dog.

    • “If a strange dog runs up to me & I have a gun, it will be shot!!”

      Pussies like you should not have guns…

        • DOGS are NOT people. With Pit bulls having killed EIGHTEEN kids so far this year, I can GUARANTEE you that I would shoot first and ask questions later. Good work officer!!

    • you are so wrong,police do not have the right to shoot an “Unarmed” dog,by that I mean one that is not showing teeth and growling in defense of their owner (family) or their home.Cops need to chill and back off and wait for owner to restrain their pet.

        • I agree, the owners should restrain their pets…BUT, it’s not always possible. Dogs will do what they want, no matter how restrained they are. Cops do not have the right to kill an animal that doesn’t belong to them. Hell, no one has that right.

    • PLEASE! As an Epileptic with a service dog, if I came to after a seizure and a cop had shot and killed my dog I would lose my mind and probably search for a gun to end my own life because my life would be IMPOSSIBLE without my service dog. You are the very WORST kind of ignorance, the DANGEROUS kind. DO NOT BREED.

    • While I agree that dogs should be under control, I do not agree that not being so is a reason to shoot and kill them. There are too many stories nowadays of dogs that are shot to death while calmly sitting on their porches or even in their own yards. As this article pointed out, the police aren’t always called to a particular house – in the cases of police showing up at the wrong address and shooting an innocent dog.

    • You nut the dog shot in Mississippi was on a leash and the one in Colorado was on his closed on porch!

  3. The police should not have to worry about whether they are going to be mauled or not. It is a dog owner’s responsibility to make sure their dog is friendly, socialized, and under control at ALL times.

    I work as a licensed veterinary technician and I have lost count of the number of times people have said “oh, don’t worry he’s friendly” right before the animal starts growling and tries to bite. Just because someone is an animal’s owner doesn’t mean they know themselves when their dog is going to be aggressive or not- some people can be clueless about their own dogs.

    Backing away from a dog that is charging you can actually incite their prey drive and make the dog MORE likely to bite- not less.

    The author describes using a “siren or loudspeaker”. How exactly is that going to help? If the police are after a suspect it will alert the suspect; in a medical situation as the one where the owner was homeless and convulsing a siren isn’t going to help. Additionally- many dogs can actually be provoked to fear aggression because of the loudspeaker or siren which is going against what you’re trying to do.

    Police are trying to do their jobs- they put their lives on the line to protect us. They get a SPLIT SECOND to make a decision of what to do.

    Shame on anyone who puts the dog before the safety of the police officer. If the dog were under the proper control as it SHOULD be the dog wouldn’t be put in a position where it needed to be shot! Blame the owner!

    • NY LVT, you remind me of a vet tech who Stupidly cornered my dog into a corner of the exam room Immediately after entering the room, grabbed her and muzzled her so the second tech could clip her nails…. without making ANY attempt to act friendly toward my dog. My dog, a service dog, has never bit anyone, was on her leash – yes even in that small exam room, and NEVER ONCE was I asked to have my dog get up on the table, or anything else. That tech simply bolted into the room with HIS agenda.

      And here you are defending a cop YOU likely don’t even know, in a situation you likely didn’t witness for shooting a dog, AND another cop firing multiple additional rounds into his already injured and downed body… all while his homeless owner seized on the ground. My aren’t you the compassionate one.

      And I’ve had experience with cops who came on medical calls to my home, on several occasions. Most of the time, my caregiver had my dog leashed and ready to exit the apartment as soon as the ambulance arrived. The cops Usually would try to play with her, getting her excited to play and barking…. yeah that works!! And then one day, on a medical call where i was unable to stop coughing and my sats were dropping and i could barely speak, my caregiver had my dog on a short leash and ready to leave, the cop arrived at my door, literally right in front of the paramedics. The medics walked past the cop through to where I was. One recognized my dog and greeted her by name. The cop, in the loudest and nastiest way possible, told my caregiver to “Put THAT DOG into the bathroom”. I didn’t want my dog in the bathroom because of chemicals, I wanted her out of the chaos that this medical call was bringing. My caregiver hesitated as she grabbed my dogs things… so she could be taken to a neighbor to watch… but that wasn’t good enough for the cop… Oh Nooo… Literally 20 seconds later he BELLOWED at my caregiver to “PUT THAT DOG IN THE BATHROOM! OR ARE YOU DEAF!! I was trying to tell the cop to simmer down but he was such a beligerant A-hole with his big ol badge on his chest!!! I feared for my dogs life, my caregivers life, and frankly wondered if he pulled his gun if he could stop before his ammo was gone. THAT’S the kind of cop that give every cop a bad rap. And you just pour oil on the fire. If I knew you personally I would be ashamed by association, just like THAT FLIPPIN cop that I encountered.

  4. I was once a letter carrier. I went to a veterinarian to find out what I should do for an old woman who had a cat with an infected tail. As I walked in, I was barked at loudly, by a dog sitting on the floor. I was wearing my US Postal Service uniform (after my shift). The dog went crazy. The people at the vet were shocked that the dog recognized me. It was completely blind. Dogs know their owners. I thoroughly believe that police officers are way too sensitive. Dogs should not be shot unless they charge. Dogs are dogs, they protect. Drug dealers with dogs made to be aggressive have ruined the police response to canines.
    So many pets are killed needlessly. There should be training about restraint on the officers part.

    • Good insightful post! My son is a police officier but I totally agree with you! Educate officers when it comes to dogs! Again, good post!

  5. So here’s the solution if u say u want to actually do something or threaten & bash the police. Volunteer your time. Why not let the police call u up to assess a situation to see if the dog is friendly or not? Then the police can do their REAL job!! Hmmmm…

    • Maybe they should just spray a bunch of crap all over America that kills all the dogs and civilians and let the authorities wear a gas mask that day…that way all those poor people who govern us since we are obviously are too stupid to do it ourselves, can be kept safe from us….

  6. I dunno … two sides to every story … if a dog is running loose most likely the owner is to blame in the first place … a police officer has a right to protect himself … keep your dogs on your bed cuddled next to you where they belong and you’ll be fine.

    • Just because YOU love your damned dogs doesn’t mean the rest of us do. I live way out in the country because I can’t live around people and their FN dogs.. but if somebody’s dog comes around my farm causing any kind of trouble, I will shoot it.


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