Can I be charged criminally for shooting an attacking dog?

If I am out with my dog, and another
dog attacks my dog and is not stopping
it’s attack can I use deadly force on the
attacking dog to protect mine? Does
location matter? I.e. My property vs
other private property, vs dog park etc

What if while trying to break the dog
fight up, the attacking dog attacks me?

Thank you

Asked on August 26, 2016 under Criminal Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If the dog attacks you or another person, you can use deadly force if the attack is a credible threat--that is, if it's a dog that could do real damage. But if you are in an area with residences, businesses, and/or pedestrians (i.e. there are people within range of a misaimed or richoteting bullet), it may be considered reckless to discharge a firearm at, say, a rampaging chihauha, daschund, or shitzu. Similarly, you could use force to protect your dog from another, subject to the caveat that the threat must be credible and the use of force under those circumstance, especially given who is around, reasonable. The big thing you want to avoid is any risk of accidently shooting a person, if it appears you overreacted--for example, it's not at all clear that wounding or worse a human being is justified in the case of a viscious terrier (and *especially* if the dog was only attacking your dog, not a person). Shooting has risks, therefore; if you are concerned about dog attacks, you are better off using that heavy-duty pepper spray they sell hikers to repel bears.

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