Puppycide

Sixth Circuit Court: Police Can Shoot Dogs For Nothing More Than Barking

A federal appeals court rules police are pretty much always justified in shooting dogs during drug raids.

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Ingram Publishing/Newscom

When is it constitutional for a police officer to shoot a dog during a raid? Any time it moves or barks, according to a federal appeals court.

In a ruling released Monday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found Battle Creek, Mich. police officers were justified in shooting two pit bulls while executing a search warrant for drugs on the home of Mark and Cheryl Brown in 2013. The Brown's sued the police department in 2015, arguing the killing of their dogs violated their constitutional rights.

The ruling creates a similar legal standard in the Sixth Circuit—which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee—that several other federal appeals courts have established, but it also appears to expand when it is acceptable for an officer to shoot a dog.

After breaking through the Brown's door, one Battle Creek officer testified that the first dog "had only moved a few inches" toward him before he shot it. The second dog ran into 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," the court narrative continues. "Klein then fired the first two rounds at the second dog."

Police departments around the country have been hit with expensive lawsuits for shooting family pets in recent years, following a 2005 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the unreasonable killing of a dog by a police officer is an unconstitutional "seizure" of property under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. In September, a federal jury ordered the city of Hartford, Connecticut, to pay a whopping $200,000 to a family whose St. Bernard was shot by city police in 2006. Commerce City, Colorado, settled a dog shooting case in January for $262,500.

The Sixth Circuit readily agreed with its sister court's constitutional standard, but it found the Battle Creek officers' actions were reasonable because they had no knowledge of the dogs until they arrived at the house, and because there was no witness testimony rebutting the officers' narrative of what happened inside.

"The standard we set out today is that a police officer's use of deadly force against a dog while executing a warrant to search a home for illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when, 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," the court wrote.

As I reported in my November investigation of several ongoing lawsuits against the Detroit Police department for shooting family dogs, owners' accounts often differed wildly from the official police narrative of events. The officers almost always described dogs as "lunging" and "vicious" to justify their status as an imminent threat.

Yet, this is the totality of the Sixth Circuit's reasoning for the reasonableness of the shooting of the second dog:

"Officer Klein testified that the dog, a 53-pound unleashed pit bull, was standing in the middle of the basement, barking, when he fired the first two rounds," the court wrote. "The officers testified that they were unable to safely clear the basement with both dogs there. Therefore, we find that it was reasonable for Officer Klein to shoot the second dog."

The Sixth Circuit's definition of "reasonableness" here is so broad that it would it appear to classify any dog that is not standing still and silent as an imminent threat.

Detroit attorney Chris Olson, who is representing several dog owners suing the Detroit Police Department, says that while the ruling in many ways hews to the established Ninth Circuit standard, it departs significantly enough that it could be considered a circuit split—often a favorable factor in the Supreme Court's decisions on whether to review cases.

"To the extent that the case suggests that you can shoot a dog just because it's not moving and you have to clear a room, I just don't buy it," Olson says. "And I don't think the Ninth Circuit case supports that kind of activity."

Michael Oz is the director of a documentary examining police shootings of dogs, Of Dogs and Men, that was released this summer. He says the case would set an objectively unreasonable standard for dogs who end up in the line of fire.

"The greatest dog trainer in the world will not be able to keep a dog still and silent in the case of a dynamic entry like that," Oz says. "That's just not in their nature. If the standard that needs to be met to shoot is either moving or barking, then we can just assume that standard fits every dog [police] will ever encounter. It's the same as no standard."

Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker told the Battle Creek Enquirer he was pleased with the ruling:

"It was a good ruling," Police Chief Jim Blocker said. "It pointed out some things we have to improve upon, but supported our operating concept that officers must act within reason."

Blocker said "officers have milliseconds to make a decision and it is a judgment call and based on too many variables. Ensuring officer safety and preventing the destruction of evidence must be protected."

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101 responses to “Sixth Circuit Court: Police Can Shoot Dogs For Nothing More Than Barking

  1. Blocker said “officers have milliseconds to make a decision and it is a judgment call and based on too many variables. Ensuring officer safety and preventing the destruction of evidence must be protected.”

    I…we need a “police spokesman or a ‘good shoot’ H&R post” quiz.

    Why, Satire? Why did you have to die so young?!

    1. +1 totality of the circs

      hth

      1. Had he ended with “Smoochies”, that would have been awesome. Local boy makes big time!

    2. The modern world moves so fast. Police used to make “split-second” decisions. Now they have milliseconds to decide, “will I be held personally accountable for my actions?”

      1. Now they have milliseconds to decide, “will I be held personally accountable for my actions?”

        Unless they are doing something that might endanger themselves or other police officers, like not using deadly force, the answer is always a resounding “Are you fucking serious? Ha ha ha ha!”

      2. This statement is an outright lie, except I’m sure he believes it.

        The dogs were not forcing a split second decision. Or even a quick decision.

        This was a search warrant for drugs, not a hot pursuit of a violent felon. If they were truly afraid of the dogs, they could have simply retreated to another room or even exited the house and called animal control. There is no urgency that required them to immediately clear the dogs.

        This is why the court decision is completely and utterly immoral. Deferring to the state is bad enough, but in this case they have decided that individuals rights are subservient to the mere perception of convenience of the state’s agents.

        This is an abominable decision.

    3. What if the dog is the evidence?

    4. We have to bend over backwards to make our precious snowflakes are protected. My friend was telling me how a cop was giving a ticket to a car he stopped on a very busy, narrow two-lane boulevard (St. Laurent st.) in Montreal. Basically, the cop took one lane leaving one for all other cars. My friend’s father did nothing but be in the lane because his only other option was to go onto the oncoming traffic. Guess what? The cop jumped into his car and gave HIM a ticket for not observing the Move-Over law. So basically what we have here is a cop giving a person a ticket for not going onto the oncoming traffic to protect his fucking sorry ass.

      http://bit.ly/2aFYQF1

      1. I thought boulevards were, by definition, not narrow.

        1. Forget it Ted, it’s Canada(town).

        2. They’re made tight by the parked cars. Anyway, they *call* it St. Laurent Blvd. but it’s more of a street with lanes I guess.

      2. Your friend was supposed to stop and block all traffic behind him, and then go around when there was no oncoming traffic. At that point the cop would have had no choice but to ticket him for both blocking traffic and driving in the wrong lane.

        When you are dealing with cops, it’s always “Heads they win, tails you lose.”

      3. In Minnesoda we like to mix things up. Some weekends we have crack downs on people driving without their seat belt on. Others we like to set up a sting to bust people for this fucking stupid law. They make it look like someone was pulled over then ticket everyone who doesn’t pull over.

  2. the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer

    *raises hand*

    I found a problem.

    1. Hmm. That’s a doozy. Welp, it’s too late to go back to the drawing board.

    2. And don’t forget that the officer also has some reasonable margin of not knowing the law. Reasonableness^2

      1. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, unless you are enforcing it.

        1. Heien v. North Carolina for the win. 🙁

  3. Why is this only limited to dogs?

    1. /Starts reading up on ferrets on wikipedia

      1. Let’s not forget, tarran, that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for, um… ya know… domestic, within the city limits… that ain’t legal either.

        1. What are you, a fucking park ranger?

      2. Cops will never make it past my army of attack catsnakes.

        1. If they do, my battalion of trash pandas will descend from the trees.

    2. I’m sure if a cat started barking in the offensive manner, it would apply to it too.

      Note to parrot owners: keep away from Fido.

      Also, if you’re the on all levels except physical kid, good shoot.

    3. Because, like guns, dogs have to be registered.

    4. What makes you think it is only limited to dogs?

      1. How about rabbits?

          1. Didn’t the Viet Cong use geese, because dogs could be silenced with some meat, but geese are full time assholes?

            1. having grown up in farm country I will attest that dogs can vary in their agressive behavior, but you really don’t want to fuck with a big gander. they’re assholes.

    5. Probably because dogs are with some frequency used as weapons due to the fact that with the right breed and training dogs can be both dangerous and controlled. This is why people keep guard dogs, not guard cats, parakeets, or turtles. I don’t think it would pass the smell test to claim that other animals frequently kept as pets posed an imminent threat. Of course, a dog just standing and barking, not making any threatening movements, doesn’t pass the smell test as a threat either, so who knows you may see the list of targeted animals grow in the future.

    6. “Why is this only limited to dogs?

      “Ensuring officer safety and preventing the destruction of evidence must be protected.”

      In this case it looks like the dog must have been on her way to the basement to flush some drugs like any good dog would to protect its master. Cats are too selfish and short-sighted to lend this type of aid.

      1. And cats are pretty much drug users based on he catnip aisle at the local Petco and not to be trusted. BTW, next time you’re in a pet store check out the new Hypernip- advertised as stronger than catnip. I’m pretty sure it’s made in labs in China and can only be wholesaled on the dark web.

  4. We have ample evidence that in cases where say, the Black Panthers were armed, police behaved with remarkable restraint. I’m going somewhere with this.

    1. Because Pitbull

      1. Interesting how this ended up as a reply to the wrong thing.

      2. I know it’s Pitbull so there are basically no good choices, but did you have to pick THAT one?

  5. I wonder why police officers are so deathly afraid of dogs. I’m not claiming that some dogs aren’t dangerous, but it’s just not that hard to tell if a given dog is truly dangerous. And much of the danger is just the dog’s reaction to the emotions of the human confronting it.

    1. They’re not afraid of dogs. They pretend they are in order to give themselves and excuse to kill them. The intention is to terrorize the peasants.

      1. And kill things.

    2. Afraid? I don’t think they are most of the time. But, you get to make a loud noise, you make one or more people really miserable, and you don’t have to fill out nearly as much paperwork as if you shot one of them badgeless bipeds.

      1. They had at least some suspicious that they had drugs. That right there is full reason to kill and destroy all that they love. If the police don’t do it, then who will?

    3. Have you never heard of all of the mail carriers being attacked and killed by dogs?

    4. I wonder why police officers are so deathly afraid of dogs.

      Like all bullies, the police are cowards at heart.

    5. As a UPS driver for over 30 years, I’ve been bitten by dogs more times than I can remember.
      Every dog feels threatened by a stranger invading their territory.
      You never know how they will respond.

      1. Not “every” dog feels threatened by someone “invading their territory”. I visit homes of dogs on a regular basis and have yet to be bitten by one. Most greet me happily the first time. I would suggest that you take a look at your behavior and assess it. And how are dogs getting access to you if you’re dropping packages off at doors or handing them to owners? Maybe owners need to do a little assessing too.

        1. My behavior is; trot up to the house, quickly decide the best place to leave their boxes, and quickly trot back to the truck.
          I will clarify my statement though.
          Dogs feel threatened when a brown noisy truck pulls up to their house, and a guy in a brown uniform quickly crosses into their territory. All this while the owners away and the dog feels he must guard the territory.
          They hate the sound of the truck and the guy that came out looks like a big brown bear. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t stick around to make friends, but just hurries away.
          Do this a hundred times a day, when the owners not around, and the dog’s running loose in the yard. See how many times you get bit.
          By the way, I was bitten by a German Shepherd through a pair of pants and thermal underwear, while I was handing a package to his master.
          Enough to warrant a trip to the ER, a tetanus shot, and a call to the health department. All on the clock, of course.

  6. given the totality of the circumstances

    Ah, the good ol’ totality of circs justification.

    1. It’s possible Battle Creek police officers wrote the opinion for them.

      1. Not surprising that this happened in Battle Creek which is home to Frosted Flakes. Too bad it was not Minneapolis which is home to Wheaties.

        Perhaps it was the animal jealousy of pigs which are most useful upon being butchered versus dogs.

  7. *clutches nuts and howls in pain*

    1. Careful, that might get you shot.

      1. Shit! You are right…

        *changes to meowing in pain*

        1. Clutch slowly, too. You wouldn’t want to make any furtive movements that look like you’re reaching for your pocket/holster.

          1. Um, show me your fucking hands or I’ll blow your fucking head off, pretty please, with sugar on it.

  8. “The standard we set out today is that a police officer’s use of deadly force against a dog while executing a warrant to search a home for illegal drug activity is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when, 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,” the court wrote.

    is reasonable….. when, 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

    Bets on the number of cases in the next 20 years where a court finds, “given the totality of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer, the dog did not pose an imminent threat to the officer’s safety” being any number other than “zero”?

    Okay, how about this: the UPS guy starts packing. Bets on the number of dogs he can get away with shooting on the grounds that, “given the totality of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable delivery boy, the dog poses an imminent threat to the brownie’s safety” being any number other than “zero”?

  9. preventing the destruction of evidence must be protected

    FUCK YOU

    FUCK YOU FUCKYOU

    FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU

    1. excuse me, that just slipped out

    2. You gotta break a few eggs to make a War On Drugs.

      Letting those perps flush their dope down the toilet is the worst possible outcome to these people. Therefore, anything that slows them down is an unacceptable obstacle.

      A bunch of dead dogs is the price we pay for a not-quite-but-sort-of drug-free civilization. Tell that to the next drug warrior you meet.

      1. The police chief specifically elevated the acquisition of evidence as more important than your property and the implication is that it is more important than your safety or your life.

        He can go straight to hell.

        1. That’s the only reason no-knock raids are a thing.

      2. Even if you grant that the war on drugs is not a big immoral mess (which I do not), the “destruction of evidence” argument doesn’t hold a lot of water.

        I suppose you could flush a decent amount of bulk packaged coke or heroin or something pretty fast. But for the most part, if you are busting people who can flush the evidence in a few seconds, you aren’t exactly dealing with kingpins. And you’ve still succeeded with getting those particular drugs “off the street”.

  10. So we can add dogs to the okay-to-shoot-because-FYTW list for cops?

    Let’s see, we already have blacks, elderly and/or the hard of hearing, anyone feeling suicidal, babies, cats, people who rent apartments formerly occupied by drug dealers, the intellectually challenged, kids in parks with neon-colored toy pistols, women requesting first aid, nude dudes who’ve consumed LSD… Did I miss any categories?

      1. Any carbon based lifeform capable of making furtive movements?

      2. Dementia patients.

    1. People having strokes, heart attacks, seizures, going into diabetic comas.

    2. People who obey your partner’s screamed commands while disobeying what you are screaming at them ?

      People with a cell phone in their hand ?

      People reaching for their cars registration because you asked them for it ?

      Negros who inform you they have a concealed carry permit ?

    3. People crawling out of a wrecked car ?

    4. People whose moving car you jump in front of.

  11. It might be easier to simply list those who a cop cannot shoot, at least not without some actual repercussions. That would mean: police union officials/shop stewards, well-known politicians, movie stars, fellow cops who have so far not ratted out any corrupt cops.

    I think that’s about it.

    1. Even that last one is excusable in one of those circular firing squad situations cops find themselves in from time to time.

      1. I think that is considered the responsibility of the perp who made them open fire.

      1. Shhh! Don’t mention judges! *sotto voce* Preet!

  12. Yeah, I’m sure the dog that ran away to hide in the basement seemed really threatening.

    1. And their complaint was that it didn’t leave the basement when they went to search it.

      It’s a basement. Probably a dead end. The dog was cornered and scared shitless. No shit it’s going to bark. That’s what dogs do when there’s an intruder in their home. This particular intruder already shot the other dog.

      Rev up that woodchipper.

    2. The dog running away does make this especially egregious. I don’t see how that one could have been ruled reasonable by any stretch of the imagination.

      1. The dog ran away from the police. Therefore it was guilt of something. Good shoot.

  13. Dunphy’s been rather prolific in various other threads this week. Where is that fucker on this one?

    1. It’s even got the totality of the circs. How can he resist?

    2. Everything he wanted to say was said above the cut. Why mess with perfection?

  14. Dog Lives Matter.

    #DLM

    This infuriates me to the point of insanity. Fuck these cops I really hope there is a hell so they burn in it for eternity.

  15. “The second dog ran into the basement.”

    “”The officers testified that they were unable to safely clear the basement with both dogs there. Therefore, we find that it was reasonable for Officer Klein to shoot the second dog.””

    If these are both directly quoted testimony, someone perjured themselves. With “both dogs there” in the basement? I thought one was killed upstairs and the other went to the basement.

    1. Maybe the cops dragged the dead dog into the basement as a warning to the living dog to quickly learn English and obey the officers’ lawful commands.

  16. And how come cops get a “reasonable cop” (lol) standard instead of the “reasonable person” standard the rest of us get? If I’m working on your roof and I slip, drop my nail gun and it falls off the roof and kills your daughter, do I get a panel of half-wit illiterate drunken roofers who can testify to the fact that “yep, shit happens in the roofing bidness” and it wasn’t any sort of negligence on my part that led to the unfortunate incident? No, I get a panel of normal people who’ve probably never even been drunk and crawling around on a roof at eight o’clock in the goddamn morning trying to tell me how I’m doing my job wrong. How is that fair?

  17. Nice dog you got there Your Honor…

  18. Why does anyone *need* a dog?

    1. Much less an assault dog such as these two.

  19. BULLSHIT!

    1. Let me make that clear:

      This ruling is absolute, unspeakable, bullshit. The judges on the panel should be impeached for being imbeciles and incapable of understanding reasonable force. The cop should be fired for the same reasons. The wacked out, scum-sucking drug-pusher should sue and win against the police department on fourth and fifth amendment grounds.

      1. The problem I fear is that judges and police and all other aspects of the justice department are all on the same side, and so of course they will ultimately collude with one another.

  20. Some people say cops are man’s best friend, so…

  21. Dogs are a furtive species.

  22. Recently my dog escaped the yard and was hit by a car and killed. This all according to animal control, who said they found her when they responded to an accident call. Started thinking about it more after reading this article. The city offered to take care of the body and we couldn’t handle seeing her torn up so we never actually went in to see her. Strangely we didn’t get fined for the accident, or charged a fee for the disposal. So I looked up an interactive police and animal control map for our city. No reports on the day she was hit. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I’m suspicious now.

  23. The heroics of police officers are truly boundless.

  24. As Mark Steyn likes to say, “The process is the punishment”.

    On suspicion that a person might have a joint, the government can terrorize their family by breaking into their home in the middle of the night, threatening them with weapons, dragging them all at gunpoint, handcuffing them on the floor, and executing their pets.

    That’s if you’re lucky.

    If you’re unlucky, one of the officers with “perceive a threat” and shoot one or more of your family.

    If a bunch of peasants did this to a judge and his family, how many crimes would they be charged with, and how long would they go to prison? Is there any price at which people would allow this to be done to their family?

    “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”

    It’s really fucked up. They escalate an arrest to collective terrorization of a family, which put their lives and police lives at risk.

    BFYTW?

  25. Funny, I don’t recall the Constitution weighing in on dog shooting. Which Amendment is that contained in?

    The police had best start waking up, and controlling their behavior. People are pissed off about this abuse of authority, and they like dogs a lot more than lead-slinging cops.

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