Cops Shooting Dogs: Do the Facts Justify the Action?

 This post is an updated version from an original blog entry on this site

Cases where police officers feel “forced” to shoot a dog are scattered across the United States. Within the last year, there have been a number of instances in the state of California where a police officer shot and killed or severely injured dogs while in the course of an investigation or in response to a call. The recent killing of a small sized puppy in Cleburne Texas has raised a wave of outrage from the public.

In recent investigations concerning officer involved shootings, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests that over 50% of involve the shooting or killing of animals. The figure is shocking.

What is most disturbing is that virtually no police departments or sheriff’s departments in the country have any training whatsoever for their officers in handling dog encounters. That means that over half the time an officer pulls their trigger, it’s to shoot or kill an animal (something their target practice does not prepare them for).

Dog killings by officers are growing rapidly. Here are just a few of the more controversial ones.


The case of Max the Rottweiler has blown up into a nationwide outrage. On June 30, 2013 Leon Cordell Rosby of Hawthorne, California was walking his dog while he was watching police officers responding to a call of a robbery nearby. The bystander was videotaping the response when the officers challenged him, claiming he was disturbing the scene of the crime. Rosby placed Max in his vehicle, and the police officers placed him under arrest. Max jumped out of the window in an attempt to protect his owner. One of the officers shot Max four times. Repercussions from the incident continued for months as the officers were threatened by outraged citizens and the dog’s owner was charged with crimes including intimidation of a witness and resisting arrest. Video of the shooting has gone viral, and is preceded by warnings of its graphic nature.


On June 20, 2013 in El Monte, California, a family pet named Kiki was shot by police officers that were responding to a report of a runaway teenager. The German shepherd was contained inside a fence that had two ‘Beware of Dog’ signs on it. Although officers claimed they took numerous actions to ensure there was no dog in the yard before opening the gate, a home security video shows the officers entering the yard without checking. The dog owners furthermore claim that officers refused to allow them to transport the wounded dog to a veterinarian until they could produce identification of dog licenses for all the dogs the family owned, delaying the trip to the vet. The dog was later euthanized.


On June 25, in Concord, California, two policemen who were responding to a call to locate someone acting in a suspicious manner decided to enter the backyard of Zach Grimm and Dave Biller. The officers found a 13-year-old cocker spaniel named Kirby, who began barking at them. One of the officers responded by shooting the dog in the shoulder, and later claimed he was intimidated by the elderly 29-pound dog.

Responding to a Fight

In San Diego, California on August 14, 2013, police officers were responding to a call to break up a fight at an apartment building. A dog present in the apartment jumped at the police officers, biting one of them on the leg. The other officer shot the dog; the dog survived the incident.

Responding to Domestic Disturbance

In Long Beach, California on August 22, 2013 police officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call. The man accused of violating a restraining order refused to cooperate. His pit bull, which was unleashed, was barking and prevented the police officers from approaching the house. The man finally went inside the home with the dog. After negotiating with the couple, the woman finally exited the home. As she approached the officers, the man opened the door and released the pit bull. The officers shot the dog, leading to its euthanasia shortly thereafter.

Injured Dogs Transported to Gun Range and Then Shot

This is one of the most egregious of the recent reports in the news concerning police officers shooting dogs. And in this case, it has nothing to do with responding to calls or investigating crimes. On September 11, 2013 a police officer in Merced California told a citizen that dogs that are struck by cars and survive who do not have an identification tag are taken out to the police shooting range on Grove Road where officers then shoot them. Police claimed that this was part of their job, but the California Penal Code section 597.1 states that an officer can humanely put down a stray if it is too injured to move. Obviously, this is not the case, as the police officers are actually transporting the injured dogs to destroy.

The cases of police officers shooting dogs are numerous and varied. In some instances, it appears the police were justified in their decision, while in others, it seems the officers had no reason to shoot the dog under the particular circumstances.

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About the Author: Bart Kaspero

Bart Kaspero is an experienced criminal defense and regulatory attorney who has focused on using technology and the law in bringing privacy to criminal records. His research has been published in several legal journals and his unique background has helped a broad spectrum of clients. He has provided legal training to lawyers across the US on how to navigate complex criminal record legislation and how to effectively provide privacy to those with past arrests, charges, and convictions. His innovative methods have earned him a top position of authority on the subject of criminal record privacy as well as trust within the criminal data supply chain.