Animal Law Review

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Wrongful police killings of companion dogs is gaining attention on local and national levels. Efforts to hold officers accountable are often stalled by a qualified immunity provided to officers under the Fourth Amendment and the lack of state laws and policies providing protection to domesticated animals. This article examines case law on qualified immunity—and state statutes offering canine protection—and suggests different policies that may be implemented to afford better protection to our pets and citizens. Part I provides a brief background on why dog shootings persist and provides examples of dogs shot and killed by police. Part II discusses and evaluates the qualified immunity barrier for litigants. More specifically, this section provides examples of when the Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizures provision will defeat immunity. Part III evaluates statutes such as Colorado’s Dog Protection Act and Texas’s policies to protect dogs, and stresses that state action is necessary to strengthen dog protection and keep officers accountable. Part IV provides new policies that law enforcement departments nationwide should adopt in order to avoid wrongful police killings of companion dogs and suggests ways to implement these policies.

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