Court rules police can shoot dog if it poses danger

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court that dismissed a case against Michigan police officers for shooting dogs during a drug raid, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

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In an opinion released Dec. 21, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed with the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids' dismissal of a suit against the City of Battle Creek, the Battle Creek Police Department and three police officers.

The lawsuit was brought by Mark and Cheryl Brown of Battle Creek after their two pit-bull terriers, named Isis and Baby Girl, were shot during a drug raid April 17, 2013.

The Browns sued in federal court, arguing that killing the dogs was an unreasonable seizure of their property and a violation of their constitutional rights.

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One of the officers testified that he shot the first pit bull after it appeared to move “a few inches” and lunged at him. According to court documents, the dog then retreated to the basement, where the officer shot and killed it.

The suit was filed March 17, 2015, and in January attorneys representing the city and the officers sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing both qualified immunity and that the seizure of the dogs was reasonable. The lower court dismissed the case on March 29 and that decision was appealed.

According to documents, the court concluded that "a jury could reasonably conclude that a 97-pound pit bull, barking and lunging at the officers as they breached the entryway, posed a threat to the officers' safety and it was necessary to shoot the dog in order for them to safely sweep the residence and insure there were no other gang members in the residence and that evidence was not being destroyed."

“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.

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