Shockingly, a documentary from 2013 calculated that, on average, a pet dog is killed by a police officer once every 98 minutes.
It’s that context which makes so awful this week’s ruling from a circuit court in Michigan, which said that cops can kill any dog that doesn’t sit perfectly silent and still when the officer enters its home:
A ruling from the 6th Circuit Court serves as a warning to dog owners: Teach your dog to sit still and be quiet or risk police justifiably shooting the dog.
Mark and Cheryl Brown petitioned the court to hold the city and police officers from Battle Creek, Mich., accountable for shooting and killing their dogs while executing a search warrant of their home looking for evidence of drugs. The plaintiffs said the police officers’ actions amounted to the unlawful seizure of property in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The circuit court on Monday agreed with a lower court ruling siding with the police officers.
Here’s one particularly gutting excerpt from the ruling, which describes how little a dog need do to be “justifiably” shot by police:
Officer Klein testified that after he shot and killed the first dog, he noticed the second dog standing about halfway across the basement. The second dog was not moving towards the officers when they discovered her in the basement, but rather she was “just standing there,” barking and was turned sideways to the officers. Klein then fired the first two rounds at the second dog.
After hiding in a corner, this second dog made the mistake of moving and was shot again by another officer. She then tried to hide behind the furnace, at which point a third officer observed “blood coming out of numerous holes in the dog” and killed her with a final shot.
This behavior — barking, moving, hiding — is the “imminent threat to the officer’s safety” the judge said excused the officers’ decision to execute this dog?!
The first dog allegedly “lunged” at the cops, but by the admission of the officer who began shooting, it “had only moved a few inches” when he decided the dog should die. Is that seriously an “imminent threat”?
I’m not sure what, exactly, we can do about this. It’s sort of like the threat from a human. The cop doesn’t know if the dog is about to lunge at them or not. But it is something we need to keep in the back of our minds.
When we were having the issues we had with my father in 2014 and 2015 (for new readers, there was a period where I went on forced hiatus from this page because of domestic violence issues involving my father against my mother and I that had my mother and I hiding for about a week in a hotel, but because we were hiding I had to go completely dark so we were harder to track down. My father was suffering from an aggressive brain cancer. He passed away in April 2016) we had cops in our house a lot more than we wanted to. For several months, there were cops all over our house at least once a week.
My mother has a Bichon Frise, which is a small, fluffy white dog. She’s about 14 lbs. She has the most shrill bark you could ever imagine, and while she typically doesn’t jump on people, she’s a bouncer who is extremely skittish around people not in her pack. Since my father was violent, she had also developed a fear of men (which she retains to this day). None of the cops were ever female. So even during all of this chaos, I had to be mindful to sweep the dog up off the ground and lock her in the bathroom before the cops arrived. Cops are already on edge coming to a domestic violence call, and more than once they came in with their guns unholstered, which was always a lot of fun (made more fun when they were alerted by 911 that one night that there were guns present in the home).
We never had an issue with cop vs. dog in the house, but only because of my vigilance. Especially that one night, it could have ended badly. The dog was desperately trying to protect my mother from my father, and she would not have differentiated between my dad and the cops.
The best way to handle this is to be vigilant. Protect your dogs. Yourself. You really don’t have a choice.