'Don't Shoot My Dog' Laws Proposed

from the seems-like-common-sense dept

Cross-posted from

Animals are cool. People are a-holes. Any bill that prevents people from senselessly harming animals is a good thing.

The natural enemy of the family dog is the local cop. Some of the stories we hear about cops shooting dogs, man, it’s like they don’t even try to deal with the animal reasonably. They shoot first and put the leash on later. I get that some people are just irrationally afraid of dogs, but cops are armed and in stressful situations. And since “dog murder” isn’t really a thing, there’s no incentive for cops to hold their fire.

We’ve reported in the past about how jury awards are going up when cops are found to recklessly kill family pets. But money cannot replace the companionship of a best friend.

Now, one state is trying to take more decisive action by requiring cops to learn how to deal with “short, hairy children”….

The Denver Post (gavel bang: ABA Journal) reports that a bill called the “Don’t Shoot My Dog” law is making its way through the Colorado State Senate.

The bill would require police officers to undergo training on how to deal with dogs. And it has bipartisan support:

“The reason I think it is important is dogs are not just property to most people, they are their short, hairy children,” [said Jennifer Edwards of The Animal Law Center]. “They are a part of the family, and it is absolutely devastating to lose an animal and to lose an animal so wrongfully when it could be solved by better training and better understanding of dog behavior.”

The bill’s sponsors, Democrat Lucia Guzman and Republican David Balmer, point out that “landscaping companies [and] delivery companies” deal with dogs all the time, without shooting them.

Some of the stories about police brutality to dogs are disgusting:

Among those expected to testify in favor of their bill is Gary Branson of Pueblo, whose 4-year-old labrador mix was shot multiple times by a Commerce City police officer after the pet escaped a relative’s home.

In Branson’s case, the 58-year-old left Chloe with a relative while visiting his brother in California last November. The dog got out through an open garage door and was running around the neighborhood.

Commerce City police said the dog was aggressive and continued to behave that way after being restrained with an animal-control noose. Chloe was shocked with a Taser and then shot multiple times.

What kind of sick person Tasers and shoots a family lab that has already been restrained?

Dogs are not people and shouldn’t be treated as such under the law. But they’re not mere property either. We need to carve out a legal space for our furry companions that at least respects our rights to keep them alive.

Senate panel OKs “Don’t Shoot My Dog” bill after emotional testimony [Denver Post]
‘Don’t Shoot My Dog’ bill moves forward, would require more police training [ABA Journal]

More stories from Above The Law

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Comments on “'Don't Shoot My Dog' Laws Proposed”

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JCHP says:

Maybe dogs (or, more reasonably, pets in general) should have similar protections to children. Maybe there should be a standard to be reached before someone is legally allowed to own a pet (not just dogs) since a pet shouldn’t be some sort of random addition to a home. But maybe that’s just me and I care too much about my pets and wouldn’t want to imagine that some random stroke of luck would land them with horrible people (my current dog was “rescued” when he was still a puppy, luckily, from a woman who got it and then realized, late as hell I might add, that she wouldn’t be able to take care of him).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

just in case you cant work it out, there are already laws to protect people and children from being beaten or shot.

And no you nor anyone else should be able to ‘determine’ if someone meets a certain ‘standard’ to have kids or animals.

I know at least here in Australia there are very serious punishments for animal cruelty, with long prison terms for it. These laws applies the same to a police officer (just like all laws) as everyone else.

It is also not the duty or responsibility to deal with aggressive animals, they simply call Animal Control and they deal with it.

Also, if a police officer discharges his weapon, there HAS to be an investigation, and the police officer HAS to be able to justify the use of any force on human or animal.

As for farmers and rural area’s, if you have a dog and you have not been able to teach it not to attack livestock (even if it does get out) then you are LIABLE for the damage it does.

The farmer would be far better off calling the police and making the owner of the dog pay for the damage caused, and the court to decide if the dog is uncontrolled and should be put down.

Police are just police, they are not the courts and they most certainly not experts on issues of law. They just enforce the law, you don’t have to be very bright to become a police officer. They have no more legal right to shoot a person or an animal than you or I have.

I am sure a police officer would think twice about shooting an animal if he was aware it could result in an animal cruelty charge and 5 years in prison, with a bunch of people he helped put there !!

Dookie (profile) says:

Going to put a lot of cops in jail that don't need to be there

After working professionally with domestic animals for 8 years, I’ve learned that people, of all walks, will irrationally defend their animals. I’ve witnessed and even been cornered by dogs who would “never hurt a soul.”

It’s sad when a dog gets shot, and I’ve treated a number of these animals when they come into the hospital, but one thing’s for certain, I’ve not yet seen a case where a dog got shot simply because the cop had too casual an attitude about the animal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Going to put a lot of cops in jail that don't need to be there

Tasering and then fatally shooting a dog that’s already been restrained is FUCKING PSYCHOPATHIC. There is literally NO REASON to have done it. If the dog has been caught by animal control with a noose, it can easily be put into a crate, or held at length, or even returned to an owner or caretaker.

Electrocuting and shooting a dog that’s already been restrained with a pole noose is pretty fucking casual, or at least reckless, unnecessary, and either a dumbshit thing to do, or a malicious thing to do.

Victoria says:

Re: Going to put a lot of cops in jail that don't need to be there

I have read plenty of articles about cops shooting dogs and witnessed an incident personally. The cops in my town never liked my neighbor or his dog. Yes Riley was a German sheperd, and I would give it to them if in the report that the cop was a friggin coward, instead the completely lied in the incident about the police report. In reality they had been sneaking around the front yard without announcing themselves late than night while my neighbor was with an old friend drinking, I’d been hearing them on their front porch all night laughing and such, they went back inside and thats when the cops came sneaking around their front yard, as soon as my neighbor decides to go back out again their dog reacted to the unannounced intruders in the yard. Three barks and a gun shot is what I heard. No cop yelling “Police! call off your dog” or anything. My family came out on the porch horrified and pissed. My neighbor undertstandingly cursing the cops for killing his best friend. You would think after the incident when there were several mor cops called that they would question people or do some sort of investigation. Nope. They didn’t ask us our knowledge on the matter they just fed everyone crap how a domestic disturbance was called and those cops had come to check it out, guns drawn obviously because there is no way that cop had time to pull his gun to shoot Riley it was less than three seconds of barking before he was shot. In the police report the cop made several days later he changed his story to saying that they thought they heard a domestic disturbance and that he had told my neighbor to call off his dog, and that my neighbor had known cops were on his property. I was there though and I know they whole report was BS. So I can believe that cops would stoop as low as lying on their police reports or defending their brothers in blue rather than the citizens. So I believe your being naive if you think every cop had a good reason for shooting a family dog. When they lie on the police report to cover up their moliscious intent it really makes me have a low outlook on our police force. It makes it hard to trust them and when the whole department covers it up with them by not even doing an investigation after a gun was discharged, it just makes it all the worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Leash your dog

The problem with irresponsible dog owners is that they assume their dog can do no harm.

I live in a rural area – and when dogs get out, and start killing livestock, all bets are off. Property owners shoot first, and ask questions later.

Now, if the dog remains on your own property, that’s a different thing… be a responsible dog owner.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Leash your dog

And that, as I suggested, is a different thing… but the story refers to someone’s dog that was running around the neighborhood and exhibiting aggression (whether that’s true or not, I can’t say)… around here, it wouldn’t be the cops shooting the dog, it would be the neighbors.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Leash your dog

Funny, the article doesn’t seem to be about irresponsible dog owners, it appears to be about police who are afraid of (or don’t want to deal with) dogs. The dog escaped the care of a dog sitter (that often happens since the dog may not be happy and the sitter may not be aware of how to properly keep the dog secure). My dog would ALWAYS stay by my side. However, when left with my aunt he would often manage to get off his leash or slip out a door. He just wanted to go explore, or head back to my house.

I agree about being a responsible dog owner, but that was not the subject of the article.

Police should not feel empowered to take an animals life unless their life, or the life of another is at immediate risk. The problem is a lot of officers (and others) just can’t be bothered to act responsibly. They just want to get back to the doughnut shop. (OK, just get this call over with)

In this case, the dog had already been restrained with an animal-control noose, it was putting no one in danger. All that was required at that point was calm and time.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about people?

Before we go crazy protecting animals from police brutality, shouldn’t we first deal with protecting people?

How many people have to be beaten senseless on the side of the road, whether they deserved it or not? How many have to be shot in the middle of the night when police raid the wrong apartment?

How many more people have to suffer and die from police brutality before we start to take it seriously?

Sure we should look out for dogs, but shouldn’t we put our own species first?

Teaman says:

Police Dogs

I can understand that people are afraid to deal with dogs they aren’t familiar with, however, even though I can’t comment on the dogs behavior, I’m pretty sure shooting a dog that has been caught by a pole noose isn’t justified. My main problem however is this. Police dogs get special treatment. I’ve heard of multiple cases where someone was being charged with killing an officer because they killed a police dog which was biting them, and the officer with the dog was practically crying about the incident because he was so emotional. It’s fine if the police are attached to their dogs. But it’s either a dog or a police officer, and my dog is either a dog or a civilian. No more special privileges for police dogs. Normally if a police officer ran up and started biting your arm, you’d probably be justified in your actions because he is obviously insane.

Anonymous Coward says:

I live in a community where everyone seems to think that they need to own a Pit-Bull terrier. These dogs are not inherently a bad breed, but most of the owners in our neighborhood mistreat their dogs so that they are vicious. They then fail to maintain control of their animals, and refuse to take responsibility when they have caused harm. For our law enforcement officers, the standard is that you assume the dog is dangerous until it proves itself otherwise. This is not unreasonable.

Each situation that requires an interaction with a dog and a law enforcement officer is unique, and no “standard” of behavior will be able to address that. Most officers I have dealt with would prefer that the animal be removed from the situation, because it may otherwise escalate. The problem lies with the fact that the owner is not the one that voluntarily chooses to remove the dog.

The onus is on the dog owner to maintain control, and otherwise physically cordon off the dog from any potential conflict with others, when there is no reason to warrant aggressive behavior. If this simple act occurred, most of the over responses would probably not occur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think the point of the article is that police officers should use non-lethal methods of subduing dogs before resorting to shooting the dog. Yes, assume the dog is dangerous. Use a pole noose or similar to restrain the dog, not a bullet. (with the pole noose, when used properly, the dog is unharmed) Save shooting dogs, who could be a service animal or beloved pet, for when the non-lethal methods fail.

Anonymous Coward says:

No One Disputes

That while a dog hanging from a person crotch region can be incredibly painful, not to mention unhealthy (maybe for even the dog) but, it would have been much more humane for everyone if that person could have disabled the animal prior to the attack in a non-lethal manner. The dog survives to have his day in court. The person survives without the pain of an incredibly remorseless lawsuit being further attacked by hungry sharks whirring about. Its a win/win/lose scenario? So what’s the problem?

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Shooting family pets

First, I agree about training police in sensitivity to pets, and the other ideas of discouraging any abuse of animals. I was raised with people who treated animals as “objects”, and the idea is repulsive.

But to say “landscape people don’t shoot dogs” – how many landscapers do you know that carry GUNS!! Scary idea!

And to say, no excuse for shooting a restrained animal – you sure don’t know much about situations like that, do you? If I am restraining an animal that seems unduly dangerous, and it appears it is strong enough to break the restraint and attack (which might or might not be the case, neither of us know), I hope I have a gun! That’s going to be one dead animal if I do! And yes, I would really hate shooting it.

In my case, I was walking my dog in Dallas, and an unleashed pit bull almost killed my 6 pound dog. I slammed the pit bull to the ground, pried my dog loose, and turned the pit bull over to animal control, who apparently killed it after a period of time. Beautiful dog, but if it was dangerous to others (even dogs), I see no alternative.

If it had bitten me when I put it down, I already had my knife out, and while I would have had to go to the hospital, I would have made sure the dog was dead, first. I suspect that is how many police persons feel – though, unfortunately, not all of them.

So, again, I like sensitivity training with the police.

MrPendent (profile) says:


I love our dogs. They are our (furry) children. We have 3, 2 of them are rescues.

But I don’t fault the cops here. If someone is at my house attacking my wife, I don’t want the cops dicking around with the dog (granted, the dog would/should be attacking the attackers, but anyway). I would be very, very sad, but I would not fault the cop for shooting them.

The fact is that the cop has been called for a reason. Not because someone left the milk out, or didn’t close the garage door. And those cops don’t know if that dog facing them is sweet and just protecting an owner, or if it has been mistreated and is truly vicious.

Passing laws like this, in my opinion, is not a good thing. When a cop responds, s/he needs to focus on the person, not the animal. I love my dogs, but my love of them does not compare to my love for my wife. If I found out that the cops (or firemen/ambulance) had let my wife die because they were worried about my dog, I would be very, very upset.

It’s not an easy decision, and it isn’t pleasant. But if you are calling the cops, things are probably not all that pleasant to begin with. (I will readily admit at the outset that my view of this might be skewed, being white and middle-class).

Whirly Dog Supplies (user link) says:

Dogs Protect

Our dogs are our protectors. They inherently love us and the homes they reside in. Maybe instead of shooting a dog, police officers could taser them or find another way of subduing them if they are attacking.
Don’t blame the dog or kill the dog, understand that they are who they are. Even my little Maltese who you can see wearing the dog clothes and pet apparel from Whirly Dog Supplies that I create and make, is my protector. If someone comes along at night when I am taking him for a walk, he is quickly in front of me standing strong to protect me.

Cali says:

Colorado dog protection act

This bill is a joke. Jennifer Edwards is a pit bull ambulance chaser. Making money off the poor and exploiting their emotions. I look forward to our continued battle with her law office. This law will only last for so long until police and animal control agents stop responding to calls and more people or dogs are hurt as a result. Dogs are wild animals and outside of their comfort zone, anything is game. Each animal response is unique and must be treated as such. I look forward to the day she sued when a responding agent is mauled or killed because of this law and the way responding agents will be forced to handle dog encounters. As responsible dog owners, the buck stop there.

Piqued says:

Or maybe owners should take care of their dogs!

Hey, here is a novel idea. How about putting responsibility on the dog owner — where it belongs! Let your dog run loose and terrorize the neighborhood (or police officers) and that dog should be shot. You aren’t taking care of it, so why should somebody else have to?

I am a dog owner — so don’t tell me I hate dogs. Train the dog, keep it where it belongs, and you don’t have to worry about it being shot. Otherwise, you do not deserve to have the dog, and it is better off dead.

Oh yea…do you happen to know how many dangers a roaming dog faces? Not just people…a wandering dog is going to tangle with something. Just a matter of time and it is dead anyway. Gunshot is much more humane than being torn apart by a bigger dog or a wild animal.

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