As all dog owners know, even the most demure of furbabies can get riled up when new people barge into the house. The same pup that likes to cuddle and play fetch can transform into a determined guard dog to save the family from evil intruders like mail carriers and dinner guests.
However, thanks to a federal court's recent ruling, your pup's protective tendencies may be fatal. The court ruled that police may shoot a dog if it barks, or even moves, when an officer enters a residence.
The heartbreaking decision began with an incident in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 2013 when police fatally shot two dogs while carrying out a search warrant in a couple's home.
An officer testified that he shot one of couple's pit bull when it moved "a few inches" toward him and appeared to "lunge." The wounded dog escaped to the basement, where the officer shot and killed it.
According to court documents, officers shot the couple's second dog when it retreated to the basement and barked at officers. An officer who was at the scene testified that "there was blood coming out of numerous holes in the dog and…did not want to see it suffer so he put her out of her misery and fired the last shot."
The dog's owners, Mark and Cheryl Brown, filed a petition to hold the city and the officers on scene responsible for the deaths of their pit bulls. The couple claimed that officers "unlawfully seized their property in violation of the Fourth Amendment when officers shot and killed two dogs while executing a search warrant."
However, the court ruled that the shootings were justified.
In the court's decision, Judge Eric Clay wrote that Mark and Cheryl Brown failed to provide sufficient evidence that the dogs did not lunge or bark at police (thus posing a threat).
"Given the totality of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer, the dog poses an imminent threat to the officer's safety," he wrote. "The standard we set out today is that a police officer's use of deadly force against a dog while executing a search warrant to search a home for illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when… the dog poses an imminent threat to the officer’s safety."