(courtesy aspca.org)

The ASPCA [American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] believes that most instances of police shootings of dogs are avoidable. The Force Continuum concept has been helpful in reducing unnecessary injuries to the public and professionals in encounters with potentially dangerous people. Law enforcement agencies are recognizing that similar benefits can be gained by applying this concept to encounters with potentially dangerous animals. There are many steps that law enforcement agencies can take to prevent the needless killing of dogs and reduce the high risk of injuries to officers and the general public in such instances . . .

– Establish better communication between area law enforcement and animal care and control agencies, including sharing of information about addresses with histories of calls for violent offenses or dangerous animals and establishing procedures for enlisting assistance from these agencies in planning responses to situations where dogs are known or likely to be present

– Review existing policies and data on dog shootings and institute administrative review of all such shootings that includes an evaluation of their justification

– Provide officers with training in identifying and assessing potentially dangerous dogs, as well as instruction on how to use their existing equipment (e.g. baton, OC spray) more safely and effectively in situations with potentially dangerous dogs

– Provide officers with additional up-to-date equipment that can be used as an alternative to lethal force (e.g. catch poles, nets, etc.) and proper training on its use

– Enact a Force Continuum policy for encounters with dogs, similar to that for encounters with people, that stipulates an escalating scale of options in which lethal force is considered a last resort

– When lethal force must be used, officers should be trained how to do so humanely to prevent or quickly end suffering. The following reflects a policy that is currently in use by several agencies:

“Police officers shall not discharge their firearms at a dog or other animal except to protect themselves or another person from physical injury and when they have exhausted other reasonable means to eliminate the threat. If a decision is made that the animal must be killed, the officer must make every effort to insure that the discharge of his weapon is done as safely as possible. The officer should also try to kill the animal in a humane way to keep the animal from undue suffering or escape.”

59 Responses to ASPCA Position on Police Shooting Dogs

  1. As a dog owner I am fully aware of local leash laws.
    I am not aware of any jurisdiction that does not have leash laws.
    Any dog not on a leash is fair game to a fraidycat cop.
    Dog owners have a responsibility to take care that their animals are properly restrained at all times.
    When I was a kid, our very strong husky broke his chain one night. A neighbor with chickens shot him. Didn’t kill him. My father never asked the guy to pay the vet bills. It was our failing to not have the dog contained.

    • Judging by your chicken comment it sounds like you grew up in the country, so I’m confused by the “fair game” comment…

      I live in the country and don’t just go around blasting dogs and cat which wonder around, and there are a lot. No one around here keeps their pets locked up, there is just no need.

      Killing an animal because it is attacking you or your livestock, yes. But, just shooting an animal because is not on a chain is f*cked up, I hope that isn’t what you meant…

      And if it was what you meant, please don’t move to rural Texas.

    • Any dog not on a leash is fair game to a fraidycat cop. Dog owners have a responsibility to take care that their animals are properly restrained at all times.

      Yeah, like when she’s asleep in my fenced-in yard or sleeping on the couch?

      Get real…

      • Most of the animal shootings that get complaints happen when the police execute a no knock warrant. How about we just require a special warrant for swat type raids( unless a hostage situation or active shooter ) where the judge has to be present to observe if the use of swat was needed. If he determines the officers lied in their request for a swat warrant then he can charge them with purgery and send them to prison. Or if he feels the claim was not an out right lie but a chicken little type complaint, then just not approve swat warrants for that officer anymore.

    • I have dogs running around my neighborhood all the time, its a small rural community. But just because their running around doesn’t give dogs the right to shoot them. I have shot dogs attacking my chicken’s, and ones that have been very aggressive towards me or my kids, but I don’t just blast every dog that comes on my property. Just like cops can’t go around blasting everyone everyone that looks like they might be up to no good, they can’t treat dogs as fair game just because their loose.

      • If it’s a feral dog and a mean pest, sure. Shoot it if you have to stop it from killing your animals, and shoot any animal if it’s to protect a person. But if it’s a neighbor’s beloved family pet, do not resort to lethal force to save some chickens. I’d either physically restrain the dog or use the pepper spray in my pocket first, depending on the dog’s size and temperament. I’d give it a beating if I had to, which I doubt would be needed for a trained animal. But if it kills a half-dozen of my chickens or more before I can restrain it I’m fairly certain my neighbors, the dog’s owners, would gladly generously pay for the losses and be grateful I didn’t kill their dog to save a few of my chickens. I’d likely give the owner a stern warning to control their animal. However, I might not, considering that if it was my dog that was killing someone’s chickens I would very generously and apologetically compensate them for any killed chickens, paying for injured chickens and at least double market value for dead chickens. If I had a neighbor who gave me forty bucks a chicken I’d let him kill all my chickens.

      • Their = belonging to them
        They’re = the contraction of they are
        There = a place some distance from the speaker/writer.

        Grammar is your friend, and its proper use makes you appear more intelligent. Proper grammar makes us more likely to believe what you write in your posts, because it makes you seem smarter.

        I’ll ignore your misuse of the word its also. (Should have been it’s.) Please try to do better in the future.

    • @ fishydude
      Your comment is mostly idiotic. There are many instances that don’t even come into the realm of off leash problems that involve police shooting dogs unnecessarily. You chose to focus on a narrow issue where if a dog is off leash, it’s fair game. That is a retarded comment!

      With the protections police have gained where they can pretty much do as they like, many times with little or no investigations and those that are investigated, it’s a joke, all in the name of officer safety, shooting dogs and other abuse is rampant.

      Cops shoot dogs in peoples backyards while looking for criminals when all the dog was doing was wagging its tail, because they can and can get away with it. There was an incident in Coeur d’ Alene Idaho recently where a cop shot a mans dog that was in his van with the window rolled partially down. The dog, a black lab, stuck his head out the window and barked and the cops killed it, then illegally removed the dogs body and then said it was a vicious Pitbull, which was BS. It was determined to be an unjustified shooting. It is still not over as the CDA Police Dept is probably going to get sued over it.

      Anyone who shoots a dog because it’s simply off leash has a screw loose and runs the risk of meeting up with someone like me who takes a rather dim view of such action and pretty much doesn’t give a sh– anymore. I will tell you this, someone shoots any of my friendly female dogs is going to end up in the ER with tubes coming out their nose. I’m capable and willing and serious as a heart attack about that.

    • Yeah, dogs in their own backyard should be on leashes. Dogs inside the house should be on leashes. Dogs in the car should be on leashes.

      Otherwise the dogs wouldn’t have been shot in all those instances.

    • Fishydude,

      Boy are you ignorant and biased. Are you a cop?

      Most dogs that are killed by the police are IN THEIR OWN YARDS usually behind a fence. No “leash law” applies in those circumstances. You have heard of “invisible fence” haven’t you? Well, it works and it is legal as Hell.

    • No consideration for the danger a loose dog might pose? It seems to me that aggression should be the key factor that gets a dog shot, not simply being loose. After all, that is why your dog was shot, right? For threatening the livestock of a neighbor, not simply being out. I’m sure if your dog had simply sat in your neighbors lawn, panting with a wagging they would have not shot it.

      I encountered several loose dogs in the neighborhood I grew up in. Even as a kid I never felt threatened by a loose dog and never encountered one that would have required an act of violence to render safe.

      It seems pretty clear that dogs are being shot by police under circumstances that do not justify a shooting.

  2. How much you want to bet we’ll have new policies regarding police shooting people’s dogs before we have new policies regarding police shooting people?

    • More people are likely to care about dogs than other people. I know I do.
      Cops flashbanging babies and shooting grandma sucks but cops shooting Fido make me want to chain the PD doors shut and set fire to the building.

      • Damned good point, Roscoe. Violent psychopaths (not all of them are violent) start out by choosing the most helpless victims, and animals are helpless (they don’t get carry permits and they can’t shoot back). Sooner or later, the violent psychopath will move on to more dangerous game.

        • Yep it’s an easy and overly glib snipe that doesn’t really mean anything.

          If you’ve ever seen someone who really tortures animals- that special kind of screwed up- you wouldn’t act as though shooting a dog was the same thing.

        • PETA and other animal-rights wackos will tell you that hunters are, and they really believe it.

          Extremists like that need to be controlled to keep them from hurting innocent people.

        • Intent you dope. A cop shooting a little girls dog for laughs, fun, spite us not like hunting. It is much more like tortoring an animal and getting off from it. It is much more like killing someone of a different race out of hate or spite.

          Hunting is usually for food. No cop eats a dog. No cop gets in dog hunter monthly with a trophy irish wolf hound he shot while chained. No cop pays 2 grand to stuff a dog and show it off.

    • Every step we take to communicate to government and its agents (cops here) that they are subject to limitations will help.
      The non-gun-using people are apt to give the benefit of the doubt to the cops when the cop shoots a human. Probably was a bad guy; probably was making a furtive move; maybe it wasn’t justified but it was a close-call; . . . Conversely, when cops shoot a dog there are more questions. Was the Chihuahua really a material threat to the safety of the cop? Was the german shepherd within his own fenced-in-yard? . . . When non-gun-owning people are left unsatisfied with the answers to their dog questions they get pissed and take action. Political action. Flows down-hill from the positions to the police chiefs to the bad cops.
      The bad cops who shoot dogs are the same bad cops that brutalize human subjects. Fire the cop who has a bad-shot on a dog and that cop won’t be having a bad-shot on a human.
      The non-gun-using voter doesn’t much care about the opinions of PotG; he sure does care about his dogs.

  3. One simple yet overlooked word would be instructive; restraint.

    I had encounters with dogs as well as did my fellow officers; it worked for us. We didn’t have all the dog assaults seen today. But that was the 70’s and 80’s. The tone and attitude is different now, and more often than not impulse seems to rule over restraint and good judgment.

    • IMO, cops in the 50s-60s were far superior to the officers we have now. It started to go bad in the 60s-80s, but it’s gotten far, far worse. Older, more mature and experienced cops seem to be the best. Young, immature cops seem to be the worst.

      Question: are cops taught to be loud, disrespectful and obnoxious, or does it just come naturally?

      • I’d say personality, a lot of type ‘A’s’, plus the rush of ‘authority’.

        And it is a clique’ish (or gang) attribute.

      • “Question: are cops taught to be loud, disrespectful and obnoxious, or does it just come naturally?”

        I bet most of them pick it up from the other cops they are trained by / work with.

      • I vote for trained.

        I call it escalative, possibly assaultive language.
        They call it ‘the voice of authority’ or ‘command voice’.

        It might be a matter of perspective. They think they’re my rulers. I think they’re my employees. I don’t take kindly to my employees starting a conversation by screaming obscenities at me.

      • Uh, I’m pretty sure if you were black and in the south you wouldn’t be looking back fondly on cops in the 50s and 60s.

        • Uh, I’m pretty sure that what happened in a few states with less than 10 percent if the population had nothing to do with the rest of the country.

  4. This is sad.. the response on fair game is one of the worse responses i have ever heard of… SAD!! So ill ask does one of your animals getting out and being shot by the fairy police count or would you take that into consideration when asking the officer why he shot the dog and not taze it..?.. it seems someone here is out of touch with reality.. ill also add look up the officer that shot a dog and said it was cool and the animal control officer said he write it up as ” the animal was attacking humans” i cover for you don’t get worried. or how about the raid on a home of some scum drug dealer and they shot that dog also, the dog ran away they shot it anyways then closed the door and let the dog die, or the black rot that was shot and left to bleed out in the street. just look them up and get a sense of how it feels to see somthing die in front of you..

  5. Here’s another idea: when a cop kills a dog for no damn good reason, instead of covering for him, fire the bastard.

  6. On the “steps” above, they forgot one. Cops need to take a recognition course on how to tell the difference between the perp and dog!

  7. “There are many steps that law enforcement agencies can take to prevent the needless killing of dogs and reduce the high risk of injuries to officers and the general public in such instances . . . ”

    – Yeah, like stop being a bunch of ruthless sadistic pusses and realize that people consider their dogs to be family members and you just might not like what happens next time you shoot someone’s dog, just because you can, to get your adrenaline-pumped rocks off.

    • Interesting. Well, glad that they see it as the problem that it is. Hope they can do something to change the paradigm, or they’re gonna keep getting their asses sued, and maybe worse. Shooting a man’s dog is one of the worst damn things you can do. People take that shit seriously. If Cops don’t get that, then they’re even more stupid than anyone thought.

  8. I’d hoped this was on YouTube, but sadly it was not:

    MALLORY: Who hunts dogs?
    CHERYL (off screen): Orientals. Duh!

    (I claim joke immunity for this one.).

  9. A few months ago I contacted our local Sheriff and asked them whether they had any specific policies on keeping our dog safe in case we have to call them for an emergency. Fortunately they were very aware of the issue (it has happened a couple times recently in a town 40 or 50 miles away from here) and said they had added training specific to dealing with dogs for their deputies.

    So many of these cop-on-dog killings sound like some d-bag having a bad day that knew full well there would be no consequences for pumping a few rounds into someone’s family pet.

    Not that it involves a cop, but these stories always remind me of the Brian Cox movie “Red”.

  10. I strongly suspect that police departments face a difficult dilemma regarding cops shooting dogs. They know full well that they have LEO’s who routinely shoot dogs, who like to brag about the people they beat-up, who gravitate toward SWAT teams because their really, really get off on the rush of busting into people’s houses. There was a time when people with these traits would be red-flagged and not even give consideration for being hired. But things have changed. Unions, affirmative action, civil service rules, basically mean that, once hired, a cop—even a bad one—can’t be fired. So, if you’ve got a cop who’s phobic about dogs and shoots them every chance he gets, it easier to make excuses for him (“officer safety”) than to get him off the force.

    • From “Why Puppycide?” http://windypundit.com/2012/09/why_puppycide/

      “According to psychologist Martha Stout, psychopaths tend to relate to other people through manipulation and dominance games, which they can win by making others lose. As children, they are nearly powerless and unable to win against other people, but animals are a different story, and cruelty to animals is one of the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder.

      Psychologists estimate that at least 1% of the people in the U.S. are psychopaths, and it’s not hard to imagine that some of them have become police officers. It’s not hard to imagine that, contrary to Scott’s supposition above, these police officers do roam the town in search of dogs to shoot.

      ******They just do it under color of authority. Not only do they get to kill the stupid dog, but they get to watch the owner break down in tears, helpless against their power. For a psychopath, that’s a good day.****** (Emphasis mine)

      I’m not saying that every cop that shoots a dog is a psychopath, but I strongly suspect that some of them are. There may not be many of them, but psychopaths are devastating far beyond their numbers and likely account for more than their share of misery. There may be normal cops who mistakenly shoot friendly family pets in the back as they run away, but that’s far more likely to be a psychopath with a badge and gun.”

  11. Our county has laws making it illegal for civilians to shoot domestic animals if they are just on your property. The cops and animal control in this county do like to blast domestic animals. Our shelter is no kill, but it is overflowing due to the high adoption fees. Most animals never make it to the shelter.

  12. First, I detest it when an officer reacts prematurely or unnecessarily shoots a dog, especially when there really was no legitimate threat being presented by the dog. If there is a legitimate threat from a dog, provided there is time, I would try to employ O.C. spray, as dogs are much more sensitive to it than humans and it really can only be counted on to work on dogs anyway.

    It’s interesting that when someone proposes placing overbearing restrictions on police, it’s usually someone ignorant of the realties faced by police officers. Many such proposals are onerous and impractical, not to mention they would result in more officer injuries, if implemented.

    The concept of “Force Continuum” has been proven to be impractical. That’s why it has overwhelmingly been discarded as a matter of policy. When I completed basic law enforcement training for peace officer certification in my state earlier this year, it was presented and explained, but only to show why it is ineffective and no longer recognized as a viable practice.

    • So how are you taught to deal with different levels of potential confrontation?
      Serious question, as I generally associate the force continuum with a somewhat proportional response to threats. For example, if you knock on my door, ask to come in, and I tell you not without a warrant, what are you supposed to do?
      Same question if I raise my voice?

      • You can only use the level of force that is deemed “reasonable” and “necessary”. That doesn’t mean an equally escalating “cat and mouse game” as the situation escalates.

        If you are not granted consent to enter or conduct a search (absent exigent circumstances) you exit and if entry/search is necessary, get a warrant, which must be based on probable cause. Raising your voice, absent probable cause for arrest, is not justification to use force against you, in general.

        In short, an officer may go immediately to whatever level of force he/she believes is necessary under the circumstances. The law does not limit that specifically. It just requires that any level of force that is “used” be deemed “reasonable” upon review. You must be able to articulate the perceived threat that you faced and justify your use of deadly force in defense or yourself or another person when facing an imminent threat of grave bodily harm or death. That includes any threat based on disparity of force or threat that may result in even a temporary disability/disadvantage that leaves you unable to defend against and overcome further danger of grave bodily harm or death.

        • So, in other words, if you have a permissive superior/review board/prosecutor, any and all force including lethal is justified if they consider it “reasonable.” Good to know.

    • What if you are at the wrong address or have a bogus warrant by a bogus tipster or anonymous tip? I like Indiana’s new law where the home owner/business owner can shoot your ass.

  13. The USPS seems to have an effective way to stop attacking dogs and it does not involve deadly force. Interesting that mail carriers are more highly trained then some police officers for dealing with aggressive animals.BTW, most police officers deal with these situations appropriately, but unfortunately, a few police officers do not.

  14. I have lived in the country and in a small city. In the country, when I see a loose dog I try to determine if it is friendly or not. If it comes towards me in a non-threatening manner (most do) then I will assume it is a friendly, tame dog until proven otherwise. If it comes towards me in a threatening manner (most don’t) I will assume it is a threat. Same in the city. Though I see far fewer dogs that are not on a leash in the city than in the country. I have coaxed a few loose dogs into my yard and then called the missing owners to come get them when I lived in the country. Called one lady and she told me that she just lets her dog run during the day. I think that is DUMB and a good way to get your dog killed. Most likely by a car hitting it, not by a gun.

  15. Why is it that when a citizen shoots a police dog, it is considered the same as shooting a human police officer? Conversely, if a police officer shoots a dog, shouldn’t THAT be considered the same as shooting a human? Things that make you wonder………

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