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Police officers from Battle Creek, Michigan were recently cleared of wrongdoing for killing two dogs that barked at officers during the execution of a search warrant. The owners of the two dogs were living with a known drug dealer who had recently been released from prison and was suspected to be selling drugs.
The owners filed a civil lawsuit against the officers and police department, which was dismissed on summary judgment. The case went up to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the judgment of the Michigan Federal Court.
Warning: The details of this case, described below, may be rather upsetting for dog and animal lovers.
Despite the fact that one of the dog owners was just exiting the residence when police arrived to conduct the search, and that he informed an officer on the scene that the residence was empty except for his two dogs, the officers actually conducting search never received that information.
When the officers broke down the front door, one officer claimed that one dog lunged towards him. That is when the first shot was fired. The pair of dogs then ran down to the basement. When officers attempted to clear the basement, one dog started barking at the officers. Then, the officer shot and killed that dog. The second dog started barking soon after and was shot twice, but did not die. When an officer thought the second dog lunged, he fired a third round into the dog, which then retreated while bleeding profusely. The officer then fired a fatal round into the dog to end the dog's suffering.
While the court ruled that the officers acted reasonably, the ruling does not provide officers with a blanket protection for shooting dogs that bark at them while executing a search warrant. The fear of injury must be reasonable to justify shooting, however, the standard for reasonableness is lower than what is required for shooting a person.
Unfortunately, one factor that did not favor the slain animals was that they were Pit Bulls, which have an unfortunate reputation for being vicious attack dogs (though most are sweet as can be).
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