Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

A good, but unpublished, decision about police shooting pet dogs

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Criscuolo v. Grant County, Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit 2013 (unpublished)


The district court also erred in alternatively finding that Lamens in any event is entitled to qualified immunity. At the time of the events in question, it was well established “that the Fourth Amendment forbids the killing of a person’s dog . . . when that destruction is unnecessary—i.e., when less intrusive, or less destructive, alternatives exist.” Hells Angels, 402 F.3d at 977-78. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Criscuolo and assuming Lamens “correctly perceived all of the relevant facts,” as we must, Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d 1119, 1127 (9th Cir. 2011), this case does not fall within the hazy spectrum between unreasonable and reasonable seizures.

Lamens shot Slyder after he retreated and when Criscuolo was about to obtain custody—not when Slyder was about to attack. It is clearly established that it is unreasonable to shoot an unleashed dog—even if it surprises an officer on public property—if it poses no imminent or obvious threat, its owner is in close proximity and desirous of obtaining custody, and deadly force is avoidable. Brown v. Muhlenberg Twp., 269 F.3d 205, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2001) (explaining that although good reason to believe a pet poses an imminent danger may justify destroying it in the owner’s presence, “[t]his does not mean . . . that the state may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, destroy a pet when it poses no immediate danger and the owner is looking on, obviously desirous of retaining custody”); Viilo, 552 F. Supp. 2d at 839-40 (reasoning that deadly force may be unjustified once a dog no longer poses an imminent threat).

Decision: No qi for Grant County Deputy Sheriff Beau Lamens.

Written by Burgers Allday

August 14, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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