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Defense of a domestic animal

Discussion in 'Legal' started by TapNRack, Apr 25, 2016.

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  1. TapNRack

    TapNRack Member

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    This question has been burning in my head for quite a while now. A month or two ago my neighbor informed me of a guy that ran through my fenced backyard. He saw him kind of pacing the fence line and then saw him go for it. I went to check and saw foot prints that matched what he said on the outside of my fence where nobody ever walks.

    My question to THR is what legal ground would I have to shoot if one or both of my dogs got a hold of him and/or he was beating the crap out of one or both? They aren't trained protection dogs but are certainly very alert guard dogs.

    I know this depends on so many variables in terms of daylight, whether or not he had weapons, etc. so it's tough to answer.

    Just hard to find information pertaining to defending domestic animals from humans or even other powerful breeds.

    Colorado FYI
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  2. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Member

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    Your dog, by law, is property, and with rare exception cannot be defended with lethal force. YOUR life is not in danger, nor are other human lives being threatened, so lethal force will likely land you behind bars for a very long time.

    You can, however, in most jurisdictions, defend domestic animals from predatory animals.

    Perhaps one of the THR residents lawyers could better supply you with actual statutes and case law examples.
     
  3. Robert

    Robert Administrator Staff Member

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    I would be very surprised if the use of lethal force would be acceptable in such a situation. Being in your backyard in CO is only 2nd Degree Trespassing and as far as I know your dogs are not covered by law in so far as the use of deadly force goes in their defense. While I am fairly familiar with CRS Title 18 I'd have to do some serious digging on this one. But then I am not a lawyer.
     
  4. danez71

    danez71 Member

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    Here is the statute



    CRS 18-1-706. Use of physical force in defense of property


     
  5. ROAshooter

    ROAshooter member

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    Lets be clear....if an individual takes it upon himself...to trespass/invade...your personal property...and in doing so...decides that maiming or killing your animals...is within his rights.....I will come to the conclusion that this person is not of sane mind...and a danger to me and mine...and I will take steps to protect what is mine...if you choose to call it murder....that is your call...others call it self defense...
     
  6. M-Cameron

    M-Cameron member

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    umm....no.....its not me calling it murder........its the law calling it murder.

    unfortunately, someone attacking your dogs is not a direct threat to your life.....you DO have other options available to you....

    i really dont care how you try to justify it to your self.........so long as you feel you can adequately defend your actions to leave the safety of your home to kill another human being to 12 other people.......
     
  7. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator Staff Member

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    Most likely the grand jury will call it murder, and it's very unlikely that anyone will call it self defense.

    Anyone unclear on when one might be justified in using lethal force and when he might not be justified might want to review the thread, An Overview of Basic "Use of Force" Law.

    In any case, let's move on and stick to useful comments.
     
  8. TapNRack

    TapNRack Member

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    Good replies all around, basically what I expected I guess. Initially when I was told of this my mind raced and my initial thought was that I'd gun them down without hesitation if my animals were on my property doing their job. That's what worried me, in the heat of the moment would I be able to take a step back and think of the legal ramifications. I do agree with ROAShooter in that the person wouldn't be thinking rationally and I could easily be the next target but, again, the variables and lawyers ability to misconstrue basic realities combined with the average modern day juror...

    I think these kinds of discussions are good to have, sort of like how "sleeping on it" actually fine tunes ones ability in real life. It's good to run these scenarios over.
     
  9. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    Even in today's society where animal rights are getting more popular and are mimicking the rights of people, most if not all states still draw a line between a dog's life and a humans life. In very very few cases would defending a dog even have a second look by a prosecutor, judge, or juror. The only thing I can imagine stepping a dogs life up the equal a humans and making defense of said dog ok to kill a human for is if the dog wears a badge, or if the dog is an absolute necessity as a helper animal for a handicapped person. I don't know if the latter would really even matter much, but I do know that people have taken bullets when they threaten Officer Fido.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  10. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    As a practical matter there's other solutions to this hypothetical problem... As already noted you can't defend your dogs with deadly force but if while attempting to retrieve your dogs you find yourself under attack - that might be a different situation entirely.

    Intervention in a violent physical confrontation isn't risk free but can yield a different set of circumstances for the homeowner. Looking at this sort of stuff from a distance is a lot easier than acting when facing a threat instead of remaining in a place of safety as you watch the fight. I'm pretty attached to my dogs and simply wouldn't be able to allow them to be injured without some sort of action. Whether it comes down to a real defensive situation would depend on the actions of the intruder. After the fact you'd still be facing all the questions that will always arise if deadly force is involved. No, not a good situation to find yourself in....
     
  11. MedWheeler

    MedWheeler Member

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    "Reasonable force" would likely include your physically attempting to shove him away from your dogs in most jurisdictions. The law rarely dictates you must stand idly by and watch someone intentionally damage or steal your goods.

    If, while you are forcibly removing him from your dogs, he then turns on you, it is no longer just your dogs you are protecting. The situation has then changed.

    That is why someone who attempts to steal property is guilty only of theft until he/she then uses force (or the threat of force) against an intervening owner. Then, it becomes robbery.

    Intervening to protect your dogs is a strategy that may or may not be wise, but it is not unlawful (in most jurisdictions) provided the parameters of "reasonable force" are understood and respected.

    EDIT: I don't know how I missed lemaymiami's response. He and I have both worked in LE here in Florida, and he's already said pretty much the exact same thing.
     
  12. X-Rap

    X-Rap Member

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    Sadly, if your untrained dog happens to be mauling a trespasser you may be the one violating the law no matter how your dog weathers the conflict.

    Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
     
  13. Berger.Fan222

    Berger.Fan222 Member

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    I think the bottom line will come down to how the legal system will view the question of whether or not a reasonable man is in fear for his life or great bodily harm from a trespasser harming his guard dogs.

    There may be states and other circumstances of a specific case where a reasonable man would be in fear or great bodily harm from a trespasser harming his guard dogs, but in general, I would not be optimistic.

    But I like to consider some reverse scenarios.

    Suppose a trespasser to police owned property is attacked by a police dog and in the process of defending himself, he begins to harm the dog. Would the police be justified in shooting the trespasser?

    Suppose a trespasser on an Army base is attacked by an Army dog and in the process of defending himself, he begins to harm the dog. Would a soldier on guard duty be justified in shooting the trespasser?

    If the standards are different for police and a police dog and an Army base with an Army dog than for a citizen in his own home, should they be?
     
  14. wjwlawz

    wjwlawz Member

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    As the vast majority of replies indicate, using deadly force to defend a pet is likely a very bad idea for many reasons. Discussions of how you might find some legally defensible position should be left to your attorney, but understand you will at that point already be regretting your decision and out tens of thousands for bail, attorneys, fees, lost income, etc.
    Maybe you should explore non lethal ways to solve the problem. A better fence, security cameras to photo the offender and turn over to the police, pepper spray, you get the picture.

    PS If you do find yourself defending a homicide charge and your computer is searched, these threads will be available for the prosecutor.
     
  15. Officers'Wife

    Officers'Wife Member

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    What you or I call it is really a difference that makes no difference. It's what the local prosecutor and the subsequent jury call it that counts.
     
  16. 230RN
    • Contributing Member

    230RN ^ The avatar says it all.

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    I'll just drop this here and stand back....

    I'm not signing this one so nobody will know who posted it.
     
  17. danez71

    danez71 Member

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    From the above

    As I read it, you do have the right to "protect" your property in CO.

    Note that it uses "protect" and not "defend" as it did one line up in the phrase "defending their lives".

    CO made the distinction.

    Then CO went on to explain to what extent you can protect your property which looks to include physical force but not deadly force.



     
  18. danez71

    danez71 Member

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    Please don't take this the wrong way....

    This is where THR seems to draw a line for the Legal section; not to discuss how laws "should" be.


    But to address the stuff above that, the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act becomes very relevant.

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1368

    States like AZ and CA have similar laws and probably all of the rest of the States do too.
     
  19. BSA1

    BSA1 member

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    What you are describing is a simple trespass. The intruder getting bit by your dog(s) should be considered as a occupational hazard of trespassing.

    You don't describe your fencing but it shows like low chain link meant to keep pets in. If you have not done so put locks on your gates and put NO TRESSPASSING signs in English and Spanish on all four sides of your property. This will show you exercised normal duty of care to keep intruders on your yard. Probably will not help in criminal case but will in civil lawsuit.

    Otherwise there are two many circumstances and factors for a simple answer. Can you make a case that the intruder was breaking into your garage and threatened you when you caught him, etc., etc, etc.
     
  20. HankB

    HankB Member

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    As already stated, dogs are generally regarded as property - if the Somalian is beating up Fido, he may be charged with animal cruelty, but if you lean out the window and shoot him, YOU will likely be facing charges.

    On the other hand, if you're OUTSIDE in your own back yard when Fido and the Somalian are getting into it, well, it could probably be persuasively argued that the Somalian was a threat to YOU, and Fido was protecting YOU . . . so your subsequent actions would be easier to justify.

    Maybe there's some established case law in YOUR jurisdiction that will give an indication of how animal/trespasser interactions are usually handled locally?
     
  21. ClickClickD'oh

    ClickClickD'oh Member

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    You are going to find it real hard to claim self defense while in the conduct of a criminal act. Furthermore, if you are being attacked by police dogs or military dogs it's because you were doing something their handlers thought needed a high level force response too. There aren't just dogs wandering around police stations and military posts. If a law enforcement K-9 is latched onto you, it's because you were doing something that exempts you from the right to self defense, and most likely would allow them the option of shooting you anyways.

    So yes, if you "defend" yourself against a police or military dog, chances are that being shot is in your near future.
     
  22. TimSr

    TimSr Member

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    Of course you can't use lethal force to protect property. Doesn't mean you are prohibited from using ANY force if required. While the standard advice from forum experts is to stay in the house, lock your doors, and wait for police while somebody steals, injures or kills the family pet, I've found that confrontation has always resulted in flight. There is risk involved, but I'm of the mindset that being passive, or holding the door for them, and turning your losses over to insurance creates repeat offenders from whom you will never be safe.

    First off, did you call the police and report it? My guess is you did not, since you are asking on a forum, what you should have been asking the officer who answered the call. Report suspicious activity and build a documented history. Get video of the guy trespassing. Those infrared LED night security cameras, and a recorder are dirt cheap these days. Walk out of the house, camcorder in hand, and gun in pocket. You can get him on video AND likely he will flee. In the remote chance that he doesn't, be prepared to defend yourself with necessary force.

    Every decision has risk. Most people will take more risk to protect their dogs than other property, but the amount of force you can use will be based on the threat to YOU, and not to your dog.
     
  23. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Don't go wandering away from the point of the thread as laid out in the first post.
     
  24. TomJ
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    TomJ Contributing Member

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    The short answer is that under the scenario you described, while lethal force may not be justified you can defend your dogs with non lethal force.
     
  25. aarondhgraham

    aarondhgraham Member

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    And let's not forget a strange thing about this particular scenario,,,
    In many jurisdictions police dogs are considered to be Officers of the Law.

    Fighting back against one is considered to be assaulting a police officer. :what:

    In my mind that is a truly ridiculous thing,,,
    But it's being upheld in many cases I have read about.

    Aarond

    .
     
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