A federal court has ruled that if a dog barks or even moves when a police officer enters a home, police can shoot it.
The decision comes after Mark and Cheryl Brown brought a lawsuit against the city of Battle Creek, Michigan and the police department after officers shot their two dogs while executing a search warrant in 2013.
According to documents, police officers entered the Brown’s home looking for drugs. While neither the Browns were considered suspects, a person by the name of Vincent Jones was seen at the residence supposedly distributing cocaine and heroin. Cheryl Brown’s mother, owns the home and has a child with Jones.
Officers had already arrested Jones when they arrived at the residence but wanted to do a “sweep.” Upon entering, a dog reportedly moved a few inches towards the officer, which was considered a “lunge” and was shot for doing so. The dog retreated to the basement, where she was shot again and killed.
Another dog was shot and killed after she too went to the basement and while standing still, turned and barked at the officer.
The Browns claim that officers “unlawfully seized their property [the dogs] in violation of the Fourth Amendment when officers shot and killed two dogs while executing a search warrant.”
The courts did not agree. A lower court dismissed the suit and this week, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati also ruled against them. U.S. Judge Eric Clay stated that the Browns failed to prove their dogs did not bark or lunge at the officers.
“Given the totality of the circumstances and viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer, the dog poses an imminent threat to the officer’s safety,” Judge Eric Clay wrote in the decision. “The standard we set out today is that 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.”