If you have a dog, please be aware that a Federal Court recently ruled that police are authorized to shoot any dogs present when they enter a home if they feel the animal is a threat. The dogs do not have to attack them in any way, or even be jumping or growling - just barking is enough.
|Kaine, a GHF baby.|
Obviously, this is of tremendous concern to anyone who has a large and/or naturally intimidating dog or a breed that is notoriously subjected to prejudice or considered dangerous (i.e. pit bulls, German Shepherds, etc.). That said, small dog owners need to aware as well, since many small breeds make up in noise what they lack in size.
Conversations we've had with people who are/have been in law enforcement, as well as recent experiences a family member had with EMTs, bear out that this is not a one-off thing: law enforcement and other public servants who may enter your home are predisposed to consider dogs a threat and react accordingly.
What You Can Do:
Obviously, first and foremost, be discriminating about who you allow to live at, use, or store things on your property. The less cause anyone has to be on your property, the lower you risk of being presented with an unfortunate situation.
Second, if you have a gate or other barrier across your driveway use it. Although this will not always keep people off your property, it does represent a legal barrier that in many situations cannot be crossed without your permission or a warrant, and buys space between law enforcement and your dog. (Otherwise, your front door becomes that barrier, and that doesn't leave much room to intervene!)
Third, talk to the people in your household and make a plan to secure any dogs before law enforcement, paramedics, or others enter the home in the event that you know that they're coming. (I.e. you call for an ambulance, officers are canvassing your neighborhood regarding a crime, etc.)
If at all possible, select a location that is easy for you to get the animal to in a hurry, and one that completely - and visibly - removes their ability to be a threat. [Example - gating your dog in the kitchen with a baby gate is not a good option, as there is still the theoretical possibility of them jumping over, and they are visibly barking, jumping, etc., and may be perceived as a threat. A crate (if you use them), or behind a closed bedroom or bathroom door (as long as your dog can't open these themselves!!) is a significantly better alternative.]
Don't forget to include specific directives to that effect in your emergency plans, so that friends/family (who may not live with you or be familiar with the issue) can act accordingly if you are injured or incapacitated!
While I fully respect the need for the law to protect officers, medical professionals and others who put their lives on the line to do their job every day, our pets have no legal rights and are fully dependent upon us and our awareness, attentiveness, and protection in situations like this. As you make or update plans for the new year, please make sure your furry companions are are covered!