According to a new federal court ruling, police officers can now shoot a dog if it barks or even moves when the police enter a home. The court ruling comes after police officers in Battle Creek, Michigan, shot and killed two pit bulls while searching a home for evidence of drugs back in 2013. The dogs’ owners, Mark and Cheryl Brown, filed a lawsuit against the Battle Creek Police Department and the city of Battle Creek, alleging that killing the dogs amounted to the unlawful seizure of property which would be in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The district court believed that the police officers did no wrong so the Browns filed an appeal with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.The lawsuit alleged that when the police came to conduct the search, Mark Brown told a police officer that he had a key to the front door and that his two pit bulls were inside the home. However, a different police officer testified that he did not hear the comments prior to police breaking down the door. According to the suit, Officer Christof Klein testified that when he entered the home, a large, brown pit bull jumped off the couch, aggressively barked at the police officers then lunged at him.
Officer Klein said that the first pit bull “had only moved a few inches” between the time when he entered the residence and when he shot her, but he believed that the movement was a “lunge.”
A different officer said that “the amount of time between the door coming open and the shot was extremely small… maybe a second or less. Klien stated that after he fired the shot, the dog moved away from the police officers and towards the kitchen, then downstairs into the basement. A smaller, white pit bull had as well gone down into the basement. As the officers were descending the stairs to clear the basement, they noted that the first pit bull was at the bottom of the stairs. Klein testified that the first pit bull blocked the path to the basement and that he ‘didn’t feel the officers could safely clear the basement with those dogs down there.
When the police officers were midway down the stairs, the first dog, who was at the bottom of the stairway, turned towards them and began barking again. From the stairway, Officer Klein fired two fatal rounds at the first pit bull the lawsuit states.Klein later testified that after he shot and killed the first dog, he observed the second dog standing about halfway across the basement. The second dog wasn’t moving towards the police officers when they discovered her in the basement, but instead, she was ‘just standing there barking.
Klein then fired two rounds at the second dog. After being shot by Officer Klein, the second dog ran and hid in the back corner of the basement. Then a second police officer shot her because she was “moving” out of the corner and in his direction. The wounded pit bull then ran behind the furnace in the back corner of the basement. A third police officer observed that there] was blood coming out of several holes in the dog and he didn’t want to see the dog suffer so he shot it again, to put her out of its misery. On Dec. 19th, the court of appeals issued a ruling stating that the officers acted within reason and in this case and the Browns’ constitutional rights were not violated. The seizures of the dogs, in this case, were fair given the particular circumstances surrounding the raid the court ruled.
It was reasonable for the police officers to force entry because they had information that a known gang member used the home to distribute cocaine and heroin, and they didn’t know whether gang members would be inside the residence armed and ready to fire at the police officers the ruling states.
The officers wouldn’t have used the keys Mark Brown volunteered to give them because the police officers wouldn’t have had any idea whether those keys were the correct keys. Defendants’ counsel persuasively argued that Mark Brown could have given the officers the wrong set of keys, and the resulting delay could have given somebody in the home the chance to destroy the drugs or time to prepare to attack or shoot the police officers as they entered the residence.
Judge Eric Clay stated “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.
I for one disagree with this ruling because of the precedent that it sets. What’s to stop police from shooting a small Chihuahua and use the excuse that they were afraid it was going to cause them harm. Also, these dogs were moving away when shot which is in my opinion, a very cowardly act. Hopefully, this ruling will not stand.