A U.S. law enforcement officer shoots a dog on average every 98 minutes; in fact, roughly 10,000 pet dogs are killed this way each year. In Colorado & Texas, enacted laws require officer training on being humane toward animals. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that since 2010, the city's police department has either used a taser or a gun on a dog on at least 82 occasions, roughly once per month. Of those 82 dogs, 25 of them were killed, most involved a dog that was aggressive or charging the officer. Nearly half of those shot were determined to be pit bulls.
In Cincinnati, police have been encouraged to begin using Tasers and fire extinguishers on aggressive dogs instead of guns. This phenomenon is not limited to Cincinnati; Detroit officers shot an estimated 100 dogs last year. This pattern is beginning to become expensive for cities. A Maryland family was awarded $1.2 million following an “unnecessary killing” case involving the wrongful death of a Chesapeake Bay retriever by an Anne Arundel County police officer. In Colorado, a jury awarded $252,500 to a man whose therapy dog was wrongfully killed by an officer.
Tort Actions in State & Federal Court
In a legal sense, pets are essentially property; therefore, if an officer kills one, it can be construed as an act of property seizure. In our increasingly litigious society, pet owners are taking civil actions, as well as publically creating outrage against the city government and law enforcement through traditional and social media channels. Local officials, eager to avoid further negative attention, particularly as it relates to law enforcement, are often quick to make a settlement offer to quell the situation. When the venue for the suit is a state court, the tort may be filed as claim of “trespass to chattels”. For claims brought in federal court, the trend seems to be a violation of 4th amendment rights through an unreasonable seizure.
Recent Colorado-Based Litigation
In 2012, Commerce City police responded to a complaint of a loose dog. Chloe, a three-year-old mixed breed, was shot and killed by a responding officer on the scene after using catchpoles and a Taser in attempts to subdue her. Gary Branson, the dog's owner, brought a claim with assistance from the Animal Law Center in 2013. The incident was recorded on tape and soon the local CBS affiliate KCNC trumpeted the story, creating public outrage and leading to a $260,000 settlement agreement. A jury in Adams County did find the officer not guilty in a related animal cruelty action.
Denver Attorney for Personal Injury Claims
Under Colorado law, a party whose negligent actions or inactions result in injuries may be found liable for damages. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has been pursuing monetary retribution on behalf of local injury victims for many years. Injury cases are generally taken on a contingency basis, meaning you have no “up-front” costs and we encourage you to contact the office for a free consultation at (303) 825-2223.