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Federal Judge Rules It Doesn’t Really Matter If Police Kill Unlicensed Pets

A federal judge has ruled unlicensed dogs do not fall under protections of the Fourth Amendment — thus, police cannot be held responsible for killing unlicensed family pets.

Crime/Police State

Federal Judge Rules It Doesn’t Really Matter If Police Kill Unlicensed Pets


If your pets aren’t licensed appropriately, pay attention: A federal judge just ruled Fluffy and Fido and the rest of your unlicensed pets should be considered only ‘contraband’ — and police can kill them with impunity.

Rather than train police officers not to act rashly or out of fear and immediately obliterate curious family pets — who likely only recognize officers as intruders to defend against — U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh ruled against Michigan resident Nikita Smith, who filed a civil lawsuit after her three dogs were shot and killed by Detroit Police during a cannabis raid last year, dismissing the complaint because the pets weren’t properly registered.

Devastatingly callous and ethically murky, at best, the ruling sets a bewildering precedent for encounters between police and pet owners — now abruptly on the brute force end of the painfully inured boot of the State — as Americans’ penchant for including their animals among lists of family members has officially been ruled immaterial to the court.

Rather, that’s true now in cases where owners haven’t forked over requirements and fees to have their animals licensed by the state, city, or both, depending on location.

Courts have addressed the topic of household pets as protected property under the Fourth Amendment, aligning behind the concept animals should be barred from the ‘unreasonable seizure’ of physical death, thus recompensable through litigation when the situation warrants.

However, the City of Detroit filed a motion in March positing Smith’s three dogs could not legally be considered ‘her’ property — their lack of licensing, making the canines ‘contraband’ in the eyes of the State.

On Wednesday, the judge concurred, writing,

“The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general. The reason for any unease stems from the fact that while pet owners consider their pets to be family members, the law considers pets to be property.

“The requirements of the Michigan Dog Law and the Detroit City Code, including that all dogs be current with their rabies vaccines, exist to safeguard the public from dangerous animals. When a person owns a dog that is unlicensed, in the eyes of the law it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband. Without any legitimate possessory interest in the dogs, there can be no violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

In short, no license, not your dog — not the city’s responsibility. Too bad, so sad. No civil case for you.

But, wait! There’s … sadly, more.

Reason reports, “Steeh also ruled that Smith’s suit would have been dismissed even if she had a cognizable property interest in the dogs, finding that the animals presented an imminent threat to the officers.”

The honorable Judge Steeh failed to elucidate how he’d surmised an officer could consider themselves under imminent threat of attack from one of Smith’s three dogs, which was killed in a hail of gunfire — while in a bathroom, behind a closed door, as evidenced in photographs of graphic carnage.

Each time news of yet another dead canine splashes across headlines, the inured among us instantaneously sound out officers’ infamous get-out-of-jail-free mantra, ‘I feared for my life!’ — whether the object of said law enforcement officer’s terror be a BB gun, untaxed cigarettes, a wallet, cell phone, vape, a car driving away from them, a person who summoned their assistance, or, yes, a puppy — the profession of which to investigators and the somnambulant public provides a veritable air-tight guarantee of impunity from responsibility.

This, declared by the errant officer’s attorneys through press conferences and, rarely, pale acknowledgement of misgivings — and, even then, only after having fatally shot an animal beloved by a family and the specter of civil litigation rears its head.

Police consider the dogs in their custodial care employees, equals, deserving of full honoraria when killed in the line of duty — yet, the canines of ordinary citizens over whom those same officers have authority in essence have been deemed less than physical property by the judge.

Consider a theoretical SWAT raid for drugs carried out on a wholly innocent family’s home, due to an altogether too-common error in address, in which smashed doors, windows, electronics, furniture, or other physical property would rightly be subject to compensation (albeit, paid by taxpayers including the victim, as this system still remains far from ideal) — but officers also shot and killed two dogs who ran to see the commotion.

While the theoretical homeowners had obtained a license for Dog A previously, they had yet to acquire the same for Dog B. If Steeh’s ruling were applied, the theoretical homeowners could seek add Dog A to the list of destroyed and damaged property when filing a lawsuit — but the stoney eyes of the law prevent the same for Dog B.

Unfortunately, for what must be a prodigious sampling of Americans, their animals are Dog B — lacking licensing — and vulnerable, should an encounter with police turn awry, whether or not officers had any reason for involvement with the animal or its owner.

With fairly well-established, if grossly generalized, notoriety for itchy trigger fingers, police already kill so many dogs, cats, and other family critters — one officer and member of a drug raid squad in Detroit slaughtered 73 dogs through the course of his career-to-date, Reason found — the ruling seems to portend no end to the Blue Line’s seeming hatred of non-police canines.

In fact, Reason continues, “Smith’s case is only one of several lawsuits that have been filed against the DPD for dog shootings over the past two years. The city of Detroit settled one of those suits for $100,000 after dash cam video showed an officer shooting a man’s dog while it was chained to a fence. It was also one of three lawsuits against DPD for shooting dogs during marijuana raids. The most recent was filed in June after DPD officers allegedly shot a couple’s dogs while the animals were behind a backyard fence.”

In court documents, Nikita Smith deemed the Detroit law enforcement officers responsible for the gruesome massacre of her animals a “dog death squad” — not only is she arguably on point, but the same darkly sardonic moniker could as easily fit too many other police departments and individual officers around the U.S.

With people fiercely possessive, fawning, and loyal to their pets — even those considered officially contraband by the State — the ultimate ramifications of this ruling are long from manifest.

Image: MCSO.

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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.

Claire Bernish is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up – follow Claire’s work at our Facebook or Twitter.

Claire Bernish is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up - follow Claire's work at our Facebook or Twitter.


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