What to do about a dog that was shot by the police?

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What to do about a dog that was shot by the police?

My 1 year old was playing with my daughter phone and called 911 in error. My son took the phone and advised the officer it was an error;he’s 18. Now we were expecting company so when someone rang the doorbell we expected that person. My 16 year old daughter opened the door with my 5 years old mix breed dog at her side. There were 3 police officers and the dog begin the bark so my daughter grabbed for her. Our dog made it our to the front patio which is around 4 feet from the door. At the time my daughter said, “Sorry” and begin to reach for the dog who was about 2 1/2 – 3 feet away from her. Then one of the police officers, without warning, shot my dog in the head. My daughter was right there. No police report was made. His commander later showed up and stated that it was not her fault or the officer’s fault, just a freak accident and provided us with his card and the number to a 24 hour vet. My 4 children, especially my daughter, is traumatized. She has been crying since last night. Meanwhile, our dog will live, however, we are out $400 just for the emergency vet and we can’t afford to have the bullet removed from her shoulder. The X-ray we had taken showed that the bullet traveled through her head down her neck and lodged in her shoulder. Do I have a case?

Asked on May 16, 2012 under Personal Injury, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

While you should consult with an attorney who has experience in lawsuits against the police, there is a good chance that you do not have effective recourse: the police are, appropriately, given a great deal of discretion in discharging their duties, since they couldn't do their jobs if they were constantly being second-guessed and sued. As a  result, police misconduct must be more than merely negligent to typically result in liability--i.e. it needs to be more than a mistake or poor judgment. It usually requires either a deliberate wrongdoing or recklessness--a gross disregard for the risks or the facts of the situation. In a case like this, responding to a child's 911 call (even if it was an error) and so understandably "keyed up," and confronted by a dog which was barking and getting closer, it is doubtful that the police officer, as bad as his judgment clearly was, acted sufficiently wrongful so as to support recovery.

In addition, given that even if there were liabiltiy, the most you could likely recover would be the dog's medical costs--it is rare that you can recover for emotional upset, like your daughter is experiencing--which could be offset by the cost of litigation.


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