Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Legal Question: Shooting in Defense of Pets?

There's some interesting discussion going on over at Gun Nuts Media, on the topic of whether armed deadly force is appropriate in defense of pets, specifically dogs. Caleb posits a hypothetical:
Source: Gun Nuts Media
[L]et’s say you’re out walking your dog. Someone shouts "if you bring that pit bull* near me I’m going to stab it." You, being a smart person, move in the opposite direction of the shouter. Then you come round a corner, and there he is. He attacks your dog with a knife, stabbing it.... Could you in that situation reasonably articulate that you were in fear for your life?
I know my blog-partner Charlie Foxtrot keeps German Shepard Dogs, and my family will likely also adopt a dog (probably a GSD as well) by the end of the year. As such, I would really like to get a legal opinion on this.

Any attorneys in the audience, please sound off in the comments (non-attorneys are welcome to chime in, too). As a disclaimer: I'm only asking for an off-the-cuff opinion, not "legal advice"; I promise I won't hold you to it.

(Hat tip: Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned)

* - As an aside, this isn't just about pit bulls; you'd be surprised how many normal people wouldn't recognize a pit bull breed if it bit them on the @$$, literally.**
** - On that note, would it be fair to say that pit bulls are the "assault weapons" of the dog world? I mean, why does anybody need such a "dangerous" dog breed, with "no legitimate companionship purpose"? Just sayin'.


  1. I'm not a lawyer - as I retain some semblance of humanity. But....

    1) When seriously attacked by four footed or two footed animals, be prepared to slip your dog's leash so they can defend themselves.

    2) I ALWAYS walk the dogs carrying police strength pepper spray. I've used it - when we were attacked by a pit bull. Between the pepper spray and my size 12 brogans, we survived relatively unharmed. However, pepper spray is not absolutely effective. I hit the PB full in the eyes; it only slowed -- but did not stop the bastard. That being said - a blind PB is a LOT easier to kick in the head.

    I also always carry an one hand opening knife. (Know your state/city's laws.) A British parson gutted a PB that was killing his dog. It being Where Great Britain Used To Be, he was put on trial but found innocent.

    BTW: the dufus owner was not happy I kicked his dog - I thought I might have to spray him too. I did call the cops soonest (not interested) and made a formal report to Animal Control. In Cali, pepper spray is a weapon. Discharging a weapon in city limits is a Sphincter 3 event.

    3) An animal, even furkids, are lesser than any human life. Fact.

    4) I would think that if a maniac is using a deadly weapon to attack my leashed dog, he is indeed a deadly threat to myself. Given his blood lust, actions, weapon, proximity, and immediate threat as shown by Tueller, he can scarcely be anything but a deadly threat. There is NO guarantee that the assault will end with the dog -- and a lot of reason to expect that it will not. All the usual requirements for self defense would be in force: Opportunity, Intent, Ability, Proportionate Response, etc...

    Training, such as Massad Ayoob's MAG classes, are ESSENTIAL for addressing self-defense situations.

    YMMV, don't try this at home, some parts are edible, it's worth every penny you paid...

    1. I hadn't thought of #1, but it seems reasonable.

      #3 is sad but true; in the eyes of (most) law a dog is "property", not a person. If the hypothetical attacker were to stab the dog and then back off or run, there'd be little you could legally do in response, other than call 9-1-1 to report felony animal abuse.

      #2 and #4 were big in my mind as I was writing this, even down to the Tueller reference and the Ability-Opportunity-Jeopardy calculation, but I omitted it because I wanted to keep this post somewhat less-than-rant-length. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who analyzes these things!