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CHL Corner: Deadly Force – When Dogs Attack!

It looks like our winter storms are finally over, and we can all finally start working on those New Year’s resolutions by going for daily walks. One day, I happened to be going for a run with my dog when I suddenly noticed that a very large pit bull happened to be staring at me. His owner was working on his car in the garage, and neglected to restrain his pet. His very large pit bull charged my one year old puppy and the owner managed to stop him just before he lunged to attack. I would never want to use deadly force on a dog, after all he was just acting like a dog protecting his territory. Had the owner not been able to stop his dog, would I have a legal justification to use deadly force in order to prevent a dog attack? The law can be a little tricky here, because there are no statutes that are specific for dogs attacking humans. I would have to consider a couple things; was the pit bull going after me, or my dog?

 

If the attack is on a person, that person would actually fall under the provisions of the “Statute of Necessity,” Texas penal code §9.22. That provision states that “conduct is justified if 1) The actor reasonably believes the conduct is immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm; 2) the desirability and urgency of avoiding the harm clearly outweighs, according to ordinary standards of reasonableness, the harm sought to be prevented by the law prescribing the conduct; and 3) A legislative purpose to exclude the justification claimed for the conduct does not otherwise plainly appear.” Are you confused yet? Basically, if you were to ever have to use deadly force to prevent a dog attack the jury would be the ultimate decider. In my scenario, if I take my dog out of the picture I would have to convince a jury that I believed deadly force was immediately necessary to prevent me from being mauled. I would also need to convince the jury that my desirability and urgency to use deadly force clearly outweighs the law against discharging a weapon within city limits, for example.

 

Now let’s put my dog back in the picture. Texas Health & Safety Code 822.013 states that, “A dog or coyote that is attacking, is about to attack, or has recently attacked livestock, domestic animals, or fowls may be killed by any person witnessing the attack; or the attacked animal’s owner or a person acting on behalf of the owner if the owner or person has knowledge of the attack.” Under this provision, because the pit bull actually did lunge toward my dog, I may have been protected under the Texas health and safety code 822.013 to use deadly force. Luckily, it did not come down to that in my situation.

 

As always, stay safe and see you at the range!

 
Adam Ward, Training Director
 
You can write to Adam or share your thoughts on the use of deadly force by emailing us at info@shootsmarttx.com.