U.S. Supreme Court refuses to overturn right to sue police who shoot dogs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2005:
WASHINGTON D.C. –The United States Supreme Court on December
5, 2005 refused to review an April 2005 ruling by the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals that law enforcement officers have a duty to
consider alternatives to shooting dogs.
The appellate court refused to block a lawsuit brought by
seven Hell’s Angels motorcycle club members against seven San Jose
police officers and a Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy.
The Hell’s Angels contend that their civil rights were
violated when the police officers and sheriff’s deputy in January
1998 shot a Rottweiler and two other dogs while raiding two homes in
search of evidence pertaining to the 1997 fatal beating of a man at
the Pink Poodle nightclub in San Jose.
The appellate verdict noted that the raid was planned in
advance. Though the investigators “had a week to consider the
options and tactics available for an encounter with the dogs,” the
verdict pointed out, they “failed to develop a realistic plan for
incapacitating the dogs other than shooting them.”
The original case will now proceed to trial.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling followed a 1994
decision by the same court that reversed a lower court verdict and
held that killing a pet without urgent necessity violates the Fourth
Amendment, protecting citizens against unreasonable search and
The case remained in court until 1998. Eventually the city
of Richmond, California paid James Fuller and family $525,000 in
damages and legal fees resulting from a 1991 incident in which police
officers shot the Fuller family dog while chasing a burglary suspect
through the Fullers’ yard. The suspect had no relationship to the
A parallel case may soon be filed in Richmond, San
Fran-cisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson reported on December 9,
after the Richmond police department internal affairs unit exonerated
three officers who shot a pit bull terrier named Blu eleven times
with pistols and a shotgun under similar circumstances.
The July 2005 Richmond shooting also involved a dog and yard
not belonging to a suspect the police were seeking. This time the
dog was confined behind a fence until the police opened the gate.
Reviewing police use of firearms, Douglas Quan of the
Riverside Press-Enterprise revealed on November 6, 2005 that from
2000 to 2004, “The records of the Riverside and San Bernardino
police and county sheriff’s departments show that when officers
intentionally fired their guns, they were aiming at an
animal–typically a dog–49% to 67% of the time. During that period,
the two sheriff’s departments recorded 162 animal shootings. The
Riverside and San Bernardino police departments recorded 61.”
Most of the shootings involved pit bull terriers or
Rottweilers, Quan found. Often the dogs were used to guard premises
used for criminal activity, but in at least four cases dogs were
shot when police raided the wrong address, or failed to determine
that the dogs belonged to the victims of reported crimes in progress,
not the perpetrators.