Philadelphia Civil Rights Lawyers: The Cops Wrongfully Shot My Dog, Believing it to be Dangerous

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It is a sad and all-too-common occurrence for responding police officers to shoot dogs who are owned by people at whose homes officers are called. In many such cases, officers may be responding to a report of a domestic disturbance and shoot the couple’s dog while they are on the scene. People who lose pets in this way are understandably upset, and may suffer from emotional distress due to the loss of their dogs. In many cases, the officer may have immunity to any resulting civil lawsuit, unless his or her doing so rose to the level of a section 1983 violation of the owner’s constitutional civil rights.


Officers enjoy immunity in most cases in which they are acting in good faith and within the scope of their positions. If an officer is found to have immunity for his or her actions in shooting an animal, he or she will not be held liable for the loss of the pet. If, however, the shooting was instead an example of excessive force, the owner’s civil rights may have been violated. In those cases, the protection of immunity would not apply and the officer may be held to be liable.

Why Police may Shoot Animals

Officers may shoot a dog for several reasons. The officer may perceive the dog to be threatening, or the dog may be actually threatening to the officer in an effort to protect its owners. Sometimes, officers will shoot a dog due to the perceived threatening nature of the dog’s breed, even if the dog is not acting aggressively. For example, breeds such as rottweilers, German shepherds and pitbulls are much more likely to be shot by responding police than are other breeds. Some dogs are shot because they are unleashed and simply run towards the officer.

What to Do When Police Arrive

When police officers show up, people can help protect their pets from the danger of being shot by crating them, securing their leash or securing the animal in a closed room. When officers knock at the door, it is best to inform officers that the owner has a dog and is securing them before opening the door. By taking such simple steps, people may prevent the possibility that their dog will be shot. In the event that an officer still shoots a dog, he or she may have used excessive force. In that case, the pet owner may want to speak with a civil rights attorney about what happened.

For experienced legal counsel, call the Philadelphia civil rights lawyers at Patrick Geckle LLC at 215-735-3326 or contact us online today for a consultation!