Can I Shoot a Dog that Bites Me?
Both during and after dog bite incidences, people are angry and scared. Many people wonder if they are allowed to use deadly force such as a gun against a dangerous dog. After all, isn’t that just self-defense? Self-Defense is a legal principle that most people can get behind. If we are being attacked, we expect that we can do what is necessary to defend ourselves. The principle of self defense does have limits though. A person typically is not legally allowed to respond with deadly force when only a small amount of force would have stopped the attack. Some might argue that it is impossible to predict how an attacker will react to our self-defense, so deadly force is always justified. It is easy to illustrate why that is not always true by using the example of the angry old lady. If there was a disagreement at the grocery store, and an old lady attempted to hit you with her purse, you would be justified in not only dodging the blow, but also perhaps in ripping the purse out of her hands. However, you would not be justified in retaliating against the women with a deadly assault. That would no longer be self-defense. You can only defend yourself and your family with means that are somewhat reasonable given the circumstances. The fact that the attacker was not even a human only further complicates this complex issue.
Animal rights activists would argue that a dog is incapable of fully calculating the consequences of its behavior, therefore, a dog should not be subject to being shot for bad behavior. Others might argue that because the dog is not capable of making human decisions, it should not receive the same self-defense safeguard that humans receive, meaning that deadly force should be allowed in any self-defense situation.
The State of Utah is generally not extremely forgiving of dangerous animals. That general theme holds true with state laws regarding using deadly force against a dog. Utah statutes dictate that a person may shoot a dog under a variety of circumstances without being subject to criminal or civil liability. Any dog that is attacking or even worrying or chasing any other animal may be shot. This means that you may be legally allowed to defend not only yourself but also your animals, with deadly force. The biting does not even have to have commenced. If you were walking your dog, and a vicious dog approached, and it growled and barked at your dog and chased it down the street; technically if you were carrying a firearm you may be justified in using that firearm to defend your dog.
With regard to defending a human being, Utah state law takes things even further. If a dog has bitten you or another person, and it has since retreated, if it is still on the loose and still a danger to others, you may be able to pursue the dog. Once the dog is back in the custody of its owner, and the situation has been controlled, do not show up at your neighbor’s door brandishing a weapon. That is a very foolish way of handling things and the problem will likely escalate very quickly. You will likely incur civil and criminal liability. If the dog is no longer a danger, do not shoot the dog. You should instead inform animal control, if that dog has been previously documented as a vicious dog, animal control may forcibly take the dog and have it put down in an effort to prevent future attacks. These laws should put all dog owners on notice. To allow your dog to freely roam the neighborhood is to subject your dog to an incredible amount of risk and could potentially result in the death of your dog. If you have questions regarding what to do after a dog attack, contact a dog bite attorney for a free consultation.