Dogs & Laws

Federal Court Ruling: Police Can Shoot a Dog if it Moves or Barks When Officers Enter a Home


A ruling by the 6th Circuit Federal Court in Michigan last week gave police nationwide the authority to shoot a dog if it moves or barks when officers enter a home.

The decision stems from a 2013 incident in Michigan where police shot and killed two dogs while executing a search warrant looking for drugs inside the home of Mark and Cheryl Brown. Following the incident, the Browns filed a petition with the court to hold the officers and city of Battle Creek responsible for the deaths of their dogs.

One officer testified that he shot the first dog after it “had only moved a few inches” in a movement that he considered to be a “lunge.” The dog then ran away from the officer to the basement, where it was shot again and killed.

The second dog was shot in the Brown’s basement after it was simply barking at the police, court documents said. The officer “testified that after he shot and killed the first dog, he noticed the second dog standing about halfway across the basement,” the court’s opinion explained. “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.” The same officer shot the dog twice before a second officer “didn’t want to see it suffer,’ so he put her out of her misery and fired the last shot,” killing her.

“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,” Judge Eric Clay wrote in the decision.  “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.”

According to court documents (below), the ruling allows “for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments.”

View the court documents here:

Court documents noted that the officers were aware, by a “Beware of Dogs” sign posted outside the home, verbally from the dogs’ owner, and by personally witnessing the dogs through a window before entering, that at least two dogs were present inside the home.

According to court documents, federal courts have also ruled that the “unreasonable killing of a dog” does constitute a “destruction of property” under the Fourth Amendment.

Still, in this case, the court sided with the officers.



  1. Frank

    Jan 4, 2017 at 3:49 am

    The United States has become the dumbest country on the planet.That judge should be treated the same way those dogs were.

  2. Pingback: Half of Intentional Police Shots Are Fired At Dogs, Study Says – The Dogington Post

  3. Denice Schaeffer

    Dec 31, 2016 at 9:53 am

    This is horrifying! It’s a dog’s nature to protect. What dog ISN’T going to move it bark when a stranger comes into their home? This needs to be challenged. I understand the safety of the police is important but this is absurd. Police killing pets that aren’t even aggressive has gotten out of control.

  4. kathy

    Dec 31, 2016 at 12:47 am

    maybe officer training needs to include something on learning the body language of dogs to determine if the dog is just barking or means to attack. And what would happen if a 5/6 yr. old kid grabbed a pair of scissors and ran at the officers yelling at them? would the officer shoot the kid? After all its a ‘threat’

  5. Kathy P

    Dec 30, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    This is WRONG and a crime! To me, this amounts to the murder of a family member. That would be like saying a citizen could shoot a K9 officer, if he/she barked. Both the furry family member and the K9 officer are doing what they would do naturally. Surely this ruling can be retracted. Who would come up with such a heinous idea?

  6. Natasha

    Dec 30, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Absolutely despicable! I’d like to shoot the officers who did that!

  7. Melissa Glenn

    Dec 30, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    These kind of killings of dogs is outrageous. If cops are so afraid to deal with dogs non-lethally then they should call animal control before entering the premises. This is just bad training on the police forces part and there are many other ways a police officer could have dealt with this. These kind of killings show what these types of police officers are … SAVAGES!!! Just because they hold a badge doesn’t make them any different than felony animal abusers.

  8. Joan

    Dec 30, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Another example of complete broken society! Every time an officer is called to action there should be an officer with skills to keep within the the law using common sense to protect all involved. Killing dogs just to relieve any obstacle is so wrong. Children may be in the home and if so, they will be trying to protect thier pet. And the pet is there to protect the fsmily. This law is inhumane and stupid. Using the word STUPID is the only word that describes this law. Dumb would be another word to use!!!!

  9. Ken Burritt

    Dec 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

    That just enabled every evil, trigger happy cop to needlessly execute non threatening dogs. What a travesty of justice.

  10. Tammy Wellock

    Dec 30, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Tjis can’t happen again. A petition needs started and signed by the masses against this action, the judges decision and that animals have rights! They were murdered in their own home with plenty of knowkwedgr the dogs were in the house before entering and liking them. This is a classic example of cops who love to kill and give good cops a bad name. They are dangerous men who have no business wearing a badge and carrying a gun!!

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