James P. Gaffney, who served with the metro-New York police department for 25 years, told officers to stop shooting dogs in an article he wrote for Law Enforcement Today magazine.
Gaffney noted it is natural for a dog to move to protect its owner when it senses danger, and that police are supposed to use better judgment, lest they incite an attack and then declare it was self-defense. It is illegal for an officer to kill a dog unless they have already taken other reasonable actions to stop a so-called aggressive dog, such as firing the gun into the air.
The article comes at a time when there have been a number of reports in recent months of officers shooting family dogs who they believe are becoming aggressive, but Gaffney warns officers to be careful.
Gaffney writes that officers need to be concerned about the possibility of a lawsuit being filed if an officer is involved in a dog shooting. Many in society these days consider their dogs as valued family members rather than simply a pet. In fact, the preferred nomenclature is “canine companion” instead of pet these days.
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This perspective is a trend emerging in the federal circuit courts of appeal. ASPCA has worked since 1874 to increase public awareness of the important role that animals fill. It is with that thought in mind officers need to understand protections have been in place for approximately 138 years against acts of cruelty to animals. Now the higher courts are ruling the shooting of a dog by a police officer is a seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment.