America's police officers can't shoot pets in the absence of an 'objectively legitimate and imminent threat'

NEWS AND COMMENT: This is a brilliant case from America. I love it. God bless the courts of America is what I say. A Federal Court of Appeal in America has ruled that a police officer who unreasonably shoots a dog can be held liable in the civil courts for violating the constitutional rights of the dog's family. That also must apply to any companion animal including cats which is why I am writing about it on this website.

A Federal Court of Appeal just ruled that a police officer who unreasonably shoots a dog can be held civilly liable for...

Posted by Nathan Winograd on Thursday, November 18, 2021

Yes, police officers have shot or bludgeoned to death innocent cats in the past in America. I have written about these stories. But obviously dogs can potentially pose more of a threat to police officers than cats. In this instance, the story is frankly horrendous and it demonstrates how badly behaved police officers can be. It doesn't have to be in America. It can be in Great Britain or any other country but this story is about America, specifically Minnesota. I believe that there is an attitude problem by police officers in their relationship with animals. It is probably because often they are right-wing and white. And also they probably like guns and hunting.

The police arrive and they cause problems when there were none.
The police arrive and they cause problems when there were none.

The police officer shot two dogs in the backyard of the family who owned the dogs. They sued, I'm told by Nathan Winograd. I presume that they sued the police department and/or the police officer individually. I also presume that they sued for negligence or some other tort seeking compensation i.e. damages. This was not a criminal matter although to be frank, I would say that this police officer's behaviour was criminal. However, it would have been too hard to prove that.

After the dogs' family sued the officer he asked a lower court to dismiss the case. He said that he had immunity from prosecution because he acted reasonably when shooting the dogs in self defence.

The lower court refused to dismiss the case. They ruled that the question that should be asked at the time was whether the dogs posed an imminent danger to the officer. A jury would decide that based upon bodycam footage.

As it happens, both dogs were wagging their tails at the time. They were non-threatening with one dog turned to the side.

The officer appealed the lower court's decision but the Court of Appeal backed up the lower court's decision. They ruled that "an officer cannot shoot a dog in the absence of an objectively legitimate and imminent threat to him or others."

The officer concerned went to the house because an alarm had been set off by kids, accidentally. The alarm was turned off. The alarm company was informed that it was a mistake. Two officers arrived anyway. The family told one officer that it was a mistake that the alarm went off. That officer did not relay the information to a second officer. That second officer jumped over the fence into the backyard and shot the dogs. The dog survived but required extensive medical attention.

To compound matters the family's 15-year-old son arrived following the shooting and demanded to see the officer. The officers refused. The son became agitated and emotionally distraught. The officers threatened to arrest him. Comment: this is so typical of police officers who make problems for themselves. They create situations where law-abiding citizens are frustrated and angered to the point where the officer feels that they have grounds to arrest. But they create the problem.

I can't tell you how horrible this is I was in previous veterinary technician in the City of Lawrence Massachusetts on at least five occasions pit bulls had been shot for exactly what this officer tried to say self-defence and all of them we're not aggressive! I am knowledgeable and test dogs for these issues and none of those dogs were labelled aggressive. It happens more than people know...--Jeanelle Gramo.
The lawsuit stated that Minneapolis Police Department's officers very rarely receive dog-related training despite the fact that there are practices and strategies in place for police officers when encountering dogs. This alludes to negligence on the behalf of the police department.

The point of this story is that the federal courts in America have decided that it is time to stop police officers killing pets without due cause. They can't wriggle out of it claiming self-defence when clearly it is not an issue of self-defence. I would like to see more families suing more police officers under similar circumstances.

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