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Quick Overview of Police Shooting Pets

Pamela L. Roudebush

Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law
Printable Version

Quick Overview of Police Shooting Pets


     The shooting of someoneís pet by a police officer is not an automatically acceptable practice in our courts of law.  When pet owners find themselves faced with a case involving the shooting of their pet they may be able to file a lawsuit in federal or state courts.  Many issues beyond just the act of a pet being shot will come into play in any lawsuit.  These issues include state laws, constitutional issues and qualified immunity issues. 

     State laws are important because they determine whether a pet is considered personal property and whether the shooting of the pet can be justified.  Constitutional issues are important because they can determine whether or not a deprivation of rights claim can be brought in federal court.  Finally, qualified immunity issues are important because they can determine if there is an entity or person who could be held liable for the shooting of the pet.  Any one of these three areas can either support or defeat a lawsuit.

     There are three links at the bottom of this page.  The first link is to a factual scenario.  This document contains the facts of a dog's shooting as described by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals together with numerous questions that can be raised by such a shooting.  The second link is to a legal overview.  This document discusses further the issues raised in this introduction but contains no links to relevant reference or research materials.  The third link is to a detailed discussion.  This document discusses in much greater detail the issues raised in this introduction and the overview.  The detailed discussion contains numerous links to state statutes, federal statutes, and relevant court opinions which are linked in their entirety.  The detailed discussion also contains an analysis of several cases that have addressed the issue of pet shootings to show how the courts analyze and interpret the applicable law relating to this topic.

     Lawsuits based upon the shooting of pets are not impossible.  With research and diligence on the part of someone considering filing a lawsuit for the shooting of a pet, cases can be made in many instances.  

1.     Factual Scenario of Immiís Shooting

2.     Overview of Police Shooting Pets

3.     Detailed Discussion of Police Shooting Pets


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