False Rape Accusation
Baron Von Chatignystein

Fourth Amendment Violation in Dog Killing Case

In case you were ever wondering under what theory you would sue a police officer for killing your pet:

The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). A dog is considered property for Fourth Amendment purposes. Lesher, 12 F.3d at 150-51. “A seizure of property occurs when there is some meaningful interference with a person’s possessory interests in that property” Id. at 150. The question before us is whether this seizure was reasonable under the circumstances.

In Andrews  v.  City of West Branch (here), former police chief Dan Knight was chasing a stray dog.  When he saw a dog that looked like the stray he was chasing, he pulled out his gun and shot the dog.  Unfortunately, he shot the wrong dog.

More disturbing is that the dog he killed was in the owner's backyard when he shot the dog.  Why would Dan Knight open fire into someone's backyard?  In any event, a split panel held that a jury could find him liable under Section 1983.

Here's an interesting fold in the case: The dog's owners are only entitled to the fair market value of their dog, i.e., they aren't entitled to emotional distress damages.  I imagine they could purchase a "replacement" (no dog can ever be fully replaced) dog for, at most, $250.

Why then did the city spend so much money defending this action?  Not only did they likely spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend a case with tiny exposure, they will also be required to pay the plaintiff's legal fees - as there is a fee-shifting statute applicable to civil rights cases.

So we have a stupid cop and stupid city officials.  Remind me to stay out of West Branch, Iowa: Home to Dog Killers and Spendthrift Politicians.