CA5: Shooting a dog is a seizure; if reasonable, QI applies

By John Wesley Hall
Law Offices of John Wesley Hall
Dec 8, 2015

Killing a dog is a Fourth Amendment seizure. Here, the owner testified that the dog was not aggressive, although it did come at the officer. The officer had a split second to respond and shot the dog when it was on him. Qualified immunity applies. Stephenson v. McCleland, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 21136 (5th Cir. Dec. 4, 2015):

This court has held that the killing of a dog can constitute a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. See Grant v. City of Houston, No. 14-20653, ___ F. App’x ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 16240, 2015 WL 5255102, at *3 (5th Cir. 2015). The Fourth Amendment requires that a seizure be objectively reasonable. In making such a determination, we look to the totality of the circumstances, balancing “the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989). “We analyze this question from the perspective ‘of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight[,]'” and “‘allo[w] for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.'” Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012, 2020, 188 L. Ed. 2d 1056 (2014) (second alteration in original) (quoting Graham, 490 U.S. at 396-97).