November 2012 - Pg 9–Attorney Question
Firearm crimes may be charged when a prosecutor deems shooting was unnecessary or otherwise ill-advised, for example, when innocent persons or property were threatened or actually harmed by the gunfire. An affirmative defense to the crime of “improper exhibition,” a misdemeanor, is that the display of a gun was in “necessary self defense.” Thus, shooting to protect one’s dog might be charged as a brandishing crime, if witnessed.
The statute most likely thought applicable is the unlawful discharge provision, Fla. Stat. § 790.15(1). It provides generally that it is unlawful to discharge a firearm in a public place, outdoors, or on residential property, but the prohibition does not apply to a person “lawfully defending life or property.” I therefore conclude that it does not constitute the crime of unlawful discharge of a firearm to shoot a dog when defending yourself, another, or your own dog. (The almost absolute general bar on taking warning shots applies). I suspect many prosecutors believe improper exhibition and/or unlawful discharge should be charged if the shooter was defending a dog and a child eyewitness has suffered trauma from what he or she witnessed. Then the shooter/defendant must come forward and prove the inapplicability of the statute or an affirmative defense. Another consideration is how a Stand Your Ground statute might be applied since most, including Florida’s, do not expressly include dog attacks. Hence the lack of certainty, and more reason for my advice against shooting man’s best friend . . . except when there is no other available course of action.
DeCaro Doran Siciliano Gallagher & DeBlasis, LLP
17251 Melford Blvd., Ste. 200, Bowie, MD 20715
Maryland has a hodgepodge of statutes and case law concerning dogs. Statutes that may touch upon shooting a dog are spread out through various sections of the Maryland Code. The amount of case law is very limited, and one of the most recent reported cases found a statute used to criminally charge a man for shooting a neighbor’s dog to be vague, and suggested that the legislature review the statute. As far as I can tell, the legislature has failed to do so.
The questions raised by the members are directed towards shooting a dog in defense of themselves, others, or livestock. In that case, I do not believe criminal charges would be pursued.
If a Maryland citizen were to shoot a dog in self defense, and it takes place off the citizen’s property, it is likely to be done with a handgun. The focus of the police would probably be on whether the citizen is lawfully carrying a handgun. It is nearly impossible for the average law-abiding citizen in Maryland to obtain a carry permit.
One also needs to be aware of the civil law implications of shooting a dog. Maryland has a specific statute covering this situation. Article 24, Section 11-505 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, entitled: Dogs attacking livestock, etc., may be killed, states: “Any person may kill any dog which he sees in the act of pursuing, attacking, wounding or killing any poultry or livestock, or attacking human beings whether or not such dog bears the proper license tag required by these provisions. There shall be no liability on such persons in damages or otherwise for such killing.”
If I were defending a client for a criminal charge arising from the shooting of a dog under the circumstances addressed in this statute, I would argue that the phrase “no liability on such persons in damages or otherwise for such killing” would also apply to criminal charges. I believe this reading of the statute is consistent with the other statutes concerning self defense generally, and those addressing harming or shooting dogs.
Debbe von Blumenstein
Attorney at Law
154 SW Oak Street, Dallas, OR 97338
We don’t have an ordinance about attacking dogs, however I would say if a dog is attacking a person one would be justified.
We do have a statute on if a dog is attacking livestock, and it is allowed.
I had a case where man shot dog under those circumstances and was charged with two felonies: aggravated animal abuse and unlawful use of a firearm.