(LWD)   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.”

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.

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?

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 fromit.

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.



  • I saw the PD in my city shot a dog point blank. One had a catch pole but never
    got to use it.
    They got out of the car with guns drawn. That dog didn’t have a chance. They claimed it "Lunged at them" sound familiar?
    I will never forget the dogs screams as long as I live.
    Oh the dogs crime? sniffing around like a dog. He got out of his owners back yard.
    No the SPCA didn’t come until after the fact.
    I’m glad there are some protections for our precious pets.

  • That’s nice! Now if only they’d release an article advising police not to kill unarmed humans.

  • I value my dog’s life more than a thousand of these scumbag cops lives. Actually, I value the life of an insect than than these bastards.

  • "…their…reckless shows of cowardice." This is what we’re not allowed to say. Police keep saying they shot a dog, or they shot a person, because they feared for their lives. Yet the situation they faced doesn’t seem, on examination, to warrant such a conclusion. Do we need to look for police who are less fearful? Who aren’t afraid of dogs, or unarmed people?

  • These arrogant bums are itching to use their guns at a moment’s notice – doesn’t matter if it’s on an unarmed/underprivileged person or any non-threatening animal, small or large. Are we supposed to feel protected by police who are afraid of their own shadows, whipping out their guns at the slightest sliver of a possibility of even only one hair on their bodies being (maybe) harmed? There have been so many reports all over the country about these macho morons shooting dogs that were absolutely no threat to them or anyone else, getting off their property, on their own properties’ and/or inside homes – don’t these people have any training at all? The worst part of this is that they never have to face any charges nor pay the consequences.

  • "Officer safety" is a convenient phrase to utter any time they shoot a harmless pet that happened to bark at them…
    To all of LEO’s; you’re getting a LOT of very bad publicity for these shootings & the no knock raids over drugs that result in terrorizing families, or killing them as well.
    Many of us are sympathetic to your jobs, but your rising levels of aggression are driving many of us away & towards a level of hatred towards you…
    You should rethink your tactics, especially over the raids.

  • What is the difference between a modern day cop or sheriff and a mercenary hired gun in another country,Not a thing!I keep hearing that they are not all the same,well put them all in one big group for an event and then show me the good ones. They do as they are told or their careers are over! They are the biggest most well armed street gang in the country.They are growing bigger and more aggressive all the time and their behavior proves it.They have a corrupt judicial system backing them all the way.Sure they throw one under the bus every now and then for the sheep to see but on a percentage basis it don’t mean a thing.

  • why not throw adulterated meatballs into the yard for cops dogs to eat, so they know how it feels.

  • This article is good advice for police. There are more and more armed average Americans that will quickly shoot any police officer that kills his/her dog since they see them as children and they will be so angry they will not care what happens afterwards. they view some cop killing their dog to be the same as some cop murdering a beloved child or spouse for no valid reason. Many millions of new high powered firearms have been purchased by an angry alert public since Obama was elected president. Anyone can connect the dots here and figure out why. the increasing tyranny and militarization of the police and the public distrust of them is why. If police don’t stop being militarized many of them will end up being executed by the public when the economy tanks and the SHTF. Police need to remember the golden rule, becauser in time as the SHTF they will quickly end up being treated the way they treat others and as times get desperate the average armed citizen will accept less and less tyranny from police. The tide is turning rapidly an most police are starting to be viewed as out of control hired thugs working for the Banksters and the corrupt central power brokers. At some point as the systemic economic collapse and massive unemployment continues, they will be dealt with unless they change by a public that will tolerate no more tyranny abuse or unConstitutional treatment from them.

  • The sad fact is that these idiots had to be told not to shoot people’s pets!

  • I have a two year old Rottie that loves people and other animals. He has never bitten anyone and when he see’s people he will come up to say hi and give them a lick. I worry that if he ever ran into the wrong police officer they would shoot him on the spot. (Not knowing that he was only coming up to show them affection)
    I hope they understand not all does are aggressive and can be properly trained to know the signs and body language for a dog that is trying to attack vs. one that just wants to be loved.

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