The police may have many reasons to shoot at and kill a dog, but usually the dog owners have grounds for a lawsuit. Though the police office probably would not spend any time in jail, there are other ways the dog owners can seek justice in court. Still, a police officer always has legal defenses at the ready. Below are situations when you have legal recourse to sue a police officer for shooting your dog.
Dogs do not have Fourth Amendment rights, an amendment which protects citizen’s privacy. It is the “search and seizure” law which prevents a person’s property from being unlawfully searched or taken in for evidence in a criminal case. Dogs do not have these rights since they are not people, and are considered to be property under the law.
In a normal case of police brutality, the police can use force on humans if they have probable cause and reasonability. Those rights to do apply to dogs. Suing police for shooting your dog must be done under theory of illegal seizure. Basically, you would be claiming that your property was illegally seized by the police, the property being your dog.
In one case, a Chicago man’s family was awarded $243,000 in court when the Chicago police raided their home and killed the family dog. In addition, the dog owner was awarded $90,000 after it was found he was falsely arrested for obstructing service of criminal process, after he asked officers if he could secure the dog. In such cases, human and dog are victims of police brutality, and claims of excessive force and illegal seizure can be made.
In addition, if a police officer shoots your dog you could potentially sue for emotional distress under the illegal seizure claim. You could also sue the officer for violating your own Fourth Amendment rights, if the officer was unlawfully present on your property.
Sometimes suing a police officer can be difficult. First of all, an officer may have qualified immunity. Qualified immunity means an officer may be immune to lawsuits if they were acting in good faith not to violate your personal constitutional rights. If the officer violated your clearly established constitutional right, which in this case would be the Fourth Amendment rights, you could have a case.
It is also important to assess whether or not the dog was a threat to the officer’s safety. This is hard to determine in court, and courts may take the side of the officer on the grounds that they have the training and experience necessary to determine when a threat warrants use of force. This can be hard to prove with facts unless the police officer blatantly disregarded police procedure in responding to animal threats.
Usually, you have to file a government tort claim before you can proceed with suing the police. Suing the police can be a difficult course of action, so always consult with an experienced attorney.