New Jersey Cops Shooting Dogs

Everything you need to know about your rights
when a cop shoots your dog unlawfully

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Serving clients throughout Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York & Tennessee

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Police misconduct in New Jersey takes many forms, including the mistreating, injuring, and even killing of pets. Most commonly, this mistreatment and injury happen to civilian dogs. Losing a pet this way is often incredibly traumatic for pet owners, and lethal actions by police against dogs happen more often than many people realize.

If your dog has been injured or killed because a police officer discharged a firearm, you could get compensation through a civil claim. In some situations, the police’s actions are illegal and unreasonable, and you can hold them accountable for that. Law enforcement officers need to be held responsible for their misconduct, including when pets are injured. At The Animal Law Firm, we represent the rights of pet owners and protect the welfare of pets. We know how much pets mean to their owners, and we have represented hundreds of pet owners and their animals successfully in civil claims. We believe in fighting for the underdog.

There are unique challenges that come with filing a civil claim against police officers, including qualified immunity. It’s essential that you work with an attorney who is experienced in animal law in New Jersey.

Fourth Amendment Rights and Protection From Illegal Seizures

Many pet owners consider their pets to be family. Under New Jersey law, however, pets are considered property. This means that when a police officer harms your pets, those pets are not protected by the laws against excessive force. However, they are protected under the Fourth Amendment, which prevents personal property from being unreasonably or illegally seized.

The unreasonable seizure of personal property includes any meaningful interference by a police officer. This includes unnecessary destruction of property, which applies to the injury or death of a pet or dog. Under the law, the injury or death of a pet could be considered an unreasonable seizure of property.

A civil claim rests on the idea that the police unlawfully and unnecessarily seized your property, and you can receive compensation for unreasonable destruction. You could also receive compensation for damages like emotional suffering if a police officer killed a pet in front of you.

If a police officer was acting illegally, such as by entering your property without a warrant, they are likely to be found liable if they injure or kill an animal. However, even in cases where a police officer is operating under a legal search warrant and injures an animal, there may still be cause for a civil claim.

Qualified Immunity for Police Officers

Qualified immunity is a certain level of protection against civil claims. Individual police officers have this immunity, and so do the department and municipality that employ the individual officer in a civil claim. It’s uncommon that the municipality is found liable for cases where a dog is injured or killed by an officer.

However, the qualified immunity of an individual officer is more likely to be overturned. Qualified immunity protects officers from civil claims when they are performing police actions according to the law. To overturn police immunity in a civil claim, the following must be proven:

  1. The police officer’s actions violated a person’s established constitutional right.
  2. A reasonable police officer should have known that these actions violated that constitutional right.

The first point will not constitute overturning qualified immunity if the officer was acting in good faith with the intent to not violate constitutional rights. Acts such as illegal entry or illegal seizure are constitutional rights violations. Determining whether the actions were in good faith is more complex.

The second point places constitutional protection against the illegal seizure of the dog owner against the safety of the officer. This point becomes complex because the court must determine if the dog was an active threat to the officer or if the dog could have reasonably been considered an active threat. A reasonable officer should know that injuring or killing a dog is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. During a civil claim, the court must determine if the officer’s actions were reasonable to protect their safety or if the actions were unnecessary.

Both points must be proven in a civil claim to remove the qualified immunity of an individual officer. The court will determine if the officer ignored police procedures in their actions and if their actions were necessary to perform their duties. Claims against a police officer are stressful, but they are more likely to succeed when you work with a qualified attorney.

The Animal Law Firm Protects Your Rights

It is an incredibly traumatizing experience to see a dog shot by a police officer. A civil claim against the officer can hold them somewhat accountable for their actions. Talk with an animal law defense attorney if you believe that the injury or death of your pet was illegal under the Fourth Amendment. A civil claim allows you to gain some compensation after a loss or traumatic experience, and it also enables you to cover medical bills from your pet’s injury and emotional damages. At The Animal Law Firm, we can work with you to help you calculate and fight for the damages you deserve.

Damages Available in a Shot or Injured Pet Claim in NJ

In most situations, New Jersey doesn’t allow non-economic damages in a claim where a pet is injured. This is because pets are considered personal property. There are some unique or extreme circumstances where the court will award non-economic damages, like emotional suffering. Damages when an officer injures a pet generally result in economic damages, such as surgeries, medication, and other veterinarian costs related to the injury. If your pet died, economic damages may include burial costs and the cost of replacing your pet. An attorney can talk with you through your situation to determine your eligibility.

The Animal Law Firm Can Help

Any form of police misconduct is inexcusable. Law enforcement officials should be held accountable, and that includes when officers shoot pets. If your dog or other pet was injured or killed because of the illegal actions of a police officer, you deserve compensation for your losses and trauma. Contact The Animal Law Firm today to learn how we can help with your civil claim.



We know how important your furry family member is to you. Whether they have no legs, two legs, or four or more legs, our priority is making sure you and your pet receive the best representation possible.

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