Detroit police officers can't shoot unlicensed dogs without consequences, court rules

Oct 15, 2018 at 4:35 pm

A federal court has ruled police officers cannot kill dogs — even unlicensed ones — without consequences.

Today, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous ruling in a lower court which stated that unlicensed pets were not protected as personal property under the Fourth Amendment. This ruling wraps up a long civil rights case after a group Detroit police officers killed three dogs while executing a narcotics search warrant in the house of plaintiff Nikita Smith in January of 2016.
The new court ruling guarantees a legal process for Michigan owners of unlicensed dogs. As reported by Reason, the court of appeals writes, "Just as the police cannot destroy every unlicensed car or gun on the spot, they cannot kill every unlicensed dog on the spot."

This isn't the first time that dog executions by Detroit police have come before the court. Earlier this year, plaintiffs Kenneth Savage and Ashley Franklin were awarded $250,000 after their three dogs were killed during a narcotics raid to confiscate outdoor marijuana plants. At the time of the canine shootings, all three dogs were separated from the officers by an eight-foot-tall fence.

Dog shootings in Detroit have been a rampant problem in recent years, with twice as many police dog shootings occurring in Detroit than in Chicago in 2017. One Detroit officer in particular killed 80 dogs throughout his career with the department.

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