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What is Justice When Your Dog Has Been Shot By Cops?

What is Justice When Your Dog Has Been Shot By Cops?

Industry groups are taking up opposite sites of the fight in the appeal of a case that resulted in an award of $620,000 to a family whose dog was shot by a sheriff’s deputy.

In 2010, two deputies arrived at the home of Roger and Sandi Jenkins in search of the couple’s son. According to the Washington Post, Roger said, “Let me put the dogs away and you can come in,” which made the officers suspicious that the son was sneaking out the back, so one went around the side of the house. There, he met up with the family’s chocolate lab, Brandi.

The deputy went for his gun and shot Brandi, even though she stopped barking and never got within three feet of him. The whole thing was caught on a dashboard camera:

Brandi, survived the incident, but will require lifelong medical care. To make matters worse here, when the Jenkins took her to the vet, the deputies went into their home without a warrant or their consent.

The family sued, and the jury found that their constitutional rights had been violated and returned a $620,000 verdict in their favor, including $200,000 for emotional distress.

The sheriff’s office appealed the case this summer in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, at which time they found themselves with some unlikely allies. Nine national and local groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club, Cat Fanciers’ Association and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, among others, had recently filed their own brief in support of tossing the award for emotional distress.

Their argument is that awards for emotional distress will result in higher costs when it comes to pet-related services, such as veterinary care. In this particular case they argued that “there is no basis for creating emotion-based liability in pet litigation, regardless of the nature of the claim.” This also isn’t the first time some of these groups have come out against awards for “non-ecomonic” damages in wrongful death cases.

While the law only recognizes companion animals as “property,” there have been a number of cases that reflect our changing attitudes towards them. For those of us who view our pets as furry members of the family, losing one in a wrongful death case is much more complicated than recovering their “economic” or “market” value. Whether it’s a case of veterinary malpractice, a lost pet who gets picked up and accidentally euthanized or a pet who is intentionally injured or killed, money can never make it right. The courts need to acknowledge their sentimental value and the fact that most people don’t view them like an inanimate object that can simply be replaced.

Now industry groups are fighting over whether the settlement should be upheld. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a brief supporting the family and the award. The organization doesn’t believe the outcome will affect costs in the future and argues that these organizations, who all profit off of our bonds with animals, are hypocritically trying to limit damages to their value as property.

“When those who harm animals are held accountable for the full extent of the injuries they cause, it sends a clear message that our society and our legal system is starting to take the lives of animals seriously. When pet industry groups like AKC and AVMA oppose non-economic damages, they are standing in the way of progress for animals,” stated the organization.

In the case of police officers shooting dogs, which is happening far too frequently, awards like this might help them think twice before unnecessarily using lethal force.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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5:10AM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

horrible but thanks for sharing

7:44PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

Awful. There was no emergency, and the people were trying to get the dog into the house- so there was no excuse to shoot the dog.

7:40PM PST on Nov 30, 2013


12:50PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

I forgot to mention that the cop should be held responsible for the vet bills, and fired

12:49PM PST on Nov 16, 2013

Give someone a badge and they think they are God! My pets are my children and anyone who shoots them will have hell to pay. This dog was doing NOTHING wrong and the cop who shot him should be punished to the full extent of the law for animal cruelty. The comment about low IQ's is right on the money. Award the money and give cops more training, instead of letting them do whatever they want.

12:54AM PDT on Oct 20, 2013

you cant talk of justice in situations of life and death. Have faith in God, cause He knows better. And remember, death isnt the end of life.

3:34PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

These cops are not renegades, but thugs in uniform. You shoot my dog, you better hide.

8:37AM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

u shoot my dog, u better damn well pay me for emotional distress. you also better lock me up cause if i ever got my hands on the idiot officer that shot my dog there would be hell to pay!! my dogs aren't my property, their my babies, my kids....u don't mess with a mothers child

Cops really need to stop this shoot first ask questions later when it comes to dealing with dogs, serious dog training is needed as well as hiring officers with common sense

7:25AM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

It's about time these renegade, over zealous, gun toting idiots got brought to task. Maybe now they will hire guys with a higher IQ (police forces are notorious for hiring low IQ people because they don't leave the job ), and better educations so they will actually know the difference between "Protect and SERVE" and Intimidate and Harass!

4:01AM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

Voted and here's hoping the deputies are now looking for another job...

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