Attack By A Dangerous Dog and the Use of Deadly Force

Attack By A Dangerous Dog and the Use of Deadly Force

Attack By A Dangerous Dog and the Use of Deadly Force

So you are taking a casual walk by yourself near your home in your friendly neighborhood and suddenly an apparently vicious German Shephard dog leaves its fenced property and is aggressively running toward you growling and showing its teeth. The owner is not around and there are several kids playing nearby. You have your Florida Concealed Carry license and are carrying your trusty 9mm and have no other form of deadly or non-deadly force with you. You can’t avoid the dog and he is running very fast, so you cannot outrun or escape it. What do you do? Should you draw your handgun and use deadly force to shoot the dog? Is this dog really that dangerous and will he actually attack and bite/hurt you? Do you take that chance? Is this a dangerous dog breed? Does the self-defense law apply to dog attacks and will it protect you? Do you have to be bitten first before you respond with deadly force? What about possibly shooting the nearby kids or other innocents? Now remember you only have about 2-3 seconds to deal with this situation. What a predicament! This is not an unusual situation and you don’t have the time to rationally deal with it in the short amount of time when it is happening. Later, there will be the concentration on whether or not your life or serious bodily injury was immediately threatened by this dog, was this a “dangerous dog” by definition, what signs did you observe that led you to believe it was an aggressive, vicious dog that could kill or hurt you, what are the extent of your injuries, the dog owner’s liability, welfare of the kids, your medical bills, discharging a gun in city limits, was this animal cruelty, etc.?

Please know that I am reporting this information and my opinions about these topics strictly for educational purposes and for you to decide for yourself the involved issues and your responses. I am not trying to anger P.E.T.A., A.S.P.C.A., or the local Pit Bull Club. Just as personal opinions vary about dogs, the criminal laws and parts of some laws pertaining to dangerous dogs vary significantly from state to state and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states do not have specific statues that even address shooting attacking dogs. They GENERALLY provide that one can shoot a dangerous, vicious canine that is threatening injury to a farm animal, like a sheep or chicken, or livestock. In the state of Florida, for example, there is a Florida Statute 767.03 that offers only one “Good Defense for Killing A Dog.” It states “In any action for damages or of a criminal prosecution against any person for killing or injuring a dog, satisfactory proof that said dog had been or was killing any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s.585.01 shall constitute a good defense to either of such actions.” Not very comprehensive.

Dog Attacks on People

But what about an attack on a human by a canine? Schwarz Kennels report that an increase in recent dog bites may be linked to a change in public attitude. They say studies show that 40% of dog owners are now more interested in obtaining a canine for protection than as a family companion. They say some even view the dog as a weapon, so they choose a large and muscular breed. In these cases, they say it is not uncommon for the animal to be tied to a post and kept isolated, un-socialized, and untrained. This can turn a dog into a mean, vicious, and uncontrollable animal.

From what I could research and understand, there is no law that protects a person who shoots a dangerous dog in self defense. There are no absolutes or universal truths when dealing with or defending against an attacking dog, a wild animal even though domesticated. I am thinking that there probably should be such specific laws. So one should know the applicable laws in their area (if there are any) and even anticipate some likely scenarios when confronted with dangerous dogs. As always, expect the unexpected and have a plan of action in place before the threat presents itself, if possible. However, it is not possible to plan ahead for all possible situations because they vary so much and different variables and considerations are involved. But, we should at least strive to do this as best we can for some general, common scenarios, like the one I mentioned above.

I discovered several cases where people have shot vicious dogs, but then were prosecuted criminally for crimes such as animal cruelty, discharge of a firearm within city limits, or negligent discharge of a firearm. When a dog bites a person, the person usually (not always) can recover full compensation from the dog owner’s homeowners insurance policy, the renter’s insurance policy, or from the dog owner, if no insurance.Of course, the legal liability varies by location because of statutes, ordinances (e.g. leash laws), court decisions, and circumstances.

The One-Bite Rule, Negligence, and Statutory Liability

Although I am not an attorney, I found in all the states I researched that a dog owner will be held liable if he knew before the biting incident that his dog had the tendency to bite people without justification. It is called the “One-Bite Rule.”  It provides GENERALLY that the dog owner is protected from liability as to the first injury caused by the dog, unless liability can be based upon other grounds. Fifteen states (the “one-bite rule” states) do not have dog bite statutes. The 15 “One-Bite Rule” States are: AK, AR, ID, KS, MS, NV, NM, NC, ND, OR, SD, TX, VT, VA, WY. Some court decisions have said the “One-Bite Rule” name is a misnomer and that the rule applies to any injury, whether or not it was caused by a bite, and that proof of the dangerous propensity of the animal does not require the existence of a prior bite even in a biting case. Confusing, subjective, and open to interpretation!

But, in almost every state, I found a dog owner will be held liable to some extent if his negligence causes a biting incident. I understand that general negligence is the doing of an act without due care, or failing to do something that due care requires. In cases where the dog owner knew that his dog was dangerous or vicious, he faces the very real possibility of having to pay punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages. Because the purpose is to punish the wrongdoer, the dog owner himself, and not his insurance company, must pay the punitive damages. However, some states have not enacted dog-bite statutory liability. If the victim was trespassing or provoking the dog that bit him, he can’t use the “statutory action,” but can still use the One-Bite Rule. In these states, usually it is the victim who must prove that the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to bite a person, and that the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s propensity to bite. So a “bite” is not necessarily required. It could be a knock down, a trip, or physical contact. The states having a dog-bite statute are referred to as “statutory strict-liability states.” There are 35 of these statutory liability states and their laws vary CONSIDERABLY. Some of these states are: AL, AZ, CA, CO, CN, FL, IL, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, SC, TN, etc. In these states, the usual prerequisites for compensation are that the victim was bitten, and the defendant owned the dog. The victim does not have to prove that the dog previously bit anyone or acted like it wanted to bite anyone. So read and understand your applicable statutes closely because some have limits, different definitions, or additional requirements. I found that they vary like night and day. A few states, like HI, GA, NY, and TN, have statutes that combine principles of negligence and the One-Bite Rule, but primarily rely upon the One-Bite Rule. They are called “Mixed Dog-Bite” statute states and are confusing to me. They have statutes that combine strict liability with elements of the One-Bite Rule, leaning toward the One Bite.

Signs of Dog Aggression and Dangerous Dogs

Signs of Dog Aggression and Dangerous Dogs

Signs of Dog Aggression and Dangerous Dogs

Let’s look at some of the recognized GENERAL Signs of Aggression in Dogs that help justify your use of deadly force in self defense against attacking dogs:

  1. Growling, snarling, and baring teeth;
  2. Showing the whites of the eyes by an angry dog;
  3. Pulled back ears (not floppy or elevated) laying flat against the head;
  4. Straight, tense, and stiff body of the dog;
  5. Even, steady run rather than a loping gate.

What are some dogs classified by various organizations as being “Dangerous” and vicious dogs? Recognize that I am a dog lover and I offer these only as an overall indicator. All dogs can be abused and trained to be vicious. This article is not an indictment of any particular breed. However, keep in mind that criminals are always looking for the edge in furthering their illegal activities and some breeds more than others give them that edge. Of course, even within one particular breed, there are exceptions to the classification, so accept these (not in any priority order) as just GENERAL Dangerous Dog Classifications:

  1. Pit Bulls;
  2. Rottweilers;
  3. German Shepherds;
  4. Bullmastiffs;
  5. Doberman Pinschers;
  6. Akitas;
  7. Siberian Huskies;
  8. Presa Canarios

A Dog as Personal Property

According to most laws and court rulings, companion animals (e.g. dogs and cats) are considered to be merely personal property or chattel. In the Bennett v. Bennett case in 1995, a Florida Appeals court overturned a Circuit Court decision that awarded visitation rights for the couple’s dog, based on a judgment that the pet was personal property and so not subject to award of custody or visitation. This was a precedent for other opinions and cases. In Florida, dogs are personal property. While you may or may not agree with this, in most jurisdictions this classification has limited the damages that pet owners can recover when their animals are injured or killed as a result of intentional or negligent conduct.

So what if someone shoots your dog, which is your property that you own? Are you justified in using deadly force to protect your property? GENERALLY speaking as a non-attorney layman, it is my understanding as the owner of property you may not use deadly force to defend your property.The life and health of humans are considered more valuable than your stereo or computer, for example. However,I also understand as a non-attorney that a property owner is not prohibited from using self-help methods in defending property and may use “reasonable” force to prevent someone, or something, from entering his property or removimg or destroying his property. But, the use of deadly force calculated to do great bodily harm or cause death is usually not permitted to defend PROPERTY. Recognize that where an intruder threatens personal safety, as well as a threat to property, or where an intruder is committing a “forcible felony,” deadly force MAY be appropriate. Of course, it is situational dependent and best to consult an attorney in your area to get a legal opinion and advice.

Use of Deadly Force Against a Dangerous Dog

So what if you shoot a dog attacking you? Will you be punished by the courts for shooting a dog which is considered to be personal property? Be aware that some courts have allowed the recovery of punitive damages in cases where the person causing harm to the companion animal engaged in conduct that was malicious, willful or in reckless disregard of the rights of the animal and the pet owner. See Levine v. Knowles, 197 So. 2d 329, 332 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1967) and Wilson v. City of Eagan, 297 N.W.2d 146, 151 (Minn. 1980.)

Remembering that a dog is usually considered personal property (recall it varies by jurisdiction), can you justifiably use deadly force when a dangerous dog is attacking you? It would seem to this non-legal layman that if you shoot a dog it’s not considered illegal use of “deadly force,” since you’re shooting at a piece of property. CAUTION! The facts of each situation and existing laws will be very instrumental. It would seem the factors for justification of using deadly force against a bad guy would be the same factors to consider for using deadly force against a dangerous dog. Were you in immediate danger and was your life threatened, imminent death or great bodily harm? Did you try to avoid the trouble and did you exercise other appropriate options? What about the use of non-deadly force like OC pepper spray? What would a reasonable person do in the particular scenario?  Recognize that you might be in violation of “discharging a firearm within city limits” or “negligent discharge of a firearm” depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction. Again, best to consult an attorney in your local area because of the vast differences among states and jurisdictions. What a challenge! I wonder if anyone can quickly determine if their life is in imminent jeopardy or if they will suffer great bodily injury, when a big muscular dangerous dog with fangs showing is aggressively running at them? What are your thoughts and how would you respond?

Conclusions

In closing, I know that I will assume all unknown dogs are threats until proven otherwise. In general, the best practice when it comes to dog attacks is to do everything you can to avoid them in the first place. If you see a dog that may be dangerous, stay away. Also, report any dangerous-looking dogs or possible strays in your neighborhood to animal control officers or appropriate authorities. Teach your children to never approach an unknown dog or animal and stay away from them until they are sure they are safe. If you have been attacked or witnessed an attack by a dog or are concerned about a dog’s aggressive behavior (even if they have not attacked or threatened to attack), PLEASE give the police or animal control authorities a call. It may save you or someone else from a terrifying, painful or even deadly experience.

Continued success!

This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney in your state or jurisdiction for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, stand your ground law, and concealed carry. This is not legal advice and not legal opinions. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 

© 2014 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • Ed Vanderginst

    Thank you for putting all these questions in my head before I make a decision to shoot or not shoot a vicious attacking dog. By the time a person processes all of these questions, a large dog would be at their throat. Only 3 things need to be processed through response of the situation; 1. the dog is big and attacking; 2. what is the backdrop for the line of fire; 3. BANG!!!

  • RetMSgt

    Pennsylvania state law reads as follows:

    3 Pa. C.S. § 459-501. Killing dogs; dogs as nuisances

    (a) Legal to kill certain dogs.–Any person may kill any dog which he sees in the act of pursuing or wounding or killing any domestic animal, wounding or killing other dogs, cats or
    household pets, or pursuing, wounding or attacking human beings, whether or not such a dog bears the license tag required by the provisions of this act. There shall be no liability on such persons in damages or otherwise for such killing.
    Thus, if the dog is attacking (or in the process of attacking) you, someone with you, a total stranger, your dog, your cat, or even a stray cow, you can shoot it without fear of getting sued or arrested. If sued, it will get dismissed. If arrested, some government entity might well owe you some money.

    • Col Ben

      Hello MSgt!
      Great information to have in PA. Thank you for your comments about PA law 459-501 and the legality of killing certain attacking dogs. PA is one of a few states that very specifically spell this out. I did notice in my research that licensed dogs attacking a person or animal when accompanied by the owner or handler are not included UNLESS CAUGHT IN THE ACT of pursuing, wounding, or attacking. This is good info. to have and thanks again for sharing.
      Col Ben

    • Wizzardly

      We recently moved to rural PA and I wondered about this because we frequently encounter unleashed dogs during trail walks. I always carry (legally) and would hate to shoot someone’s pet, but don’t want to wait till the “first bite” to react. Many thanks for posting this information.

      • StillStandingNow

        First bite laws were written BEFORE pitbulls came into the equation. First bite from a pit takes off whatever the dog sinks its teeth into. Hard to go back to that lethal response if dog has just shredded your hand, or some major artery.

        • Wizzardly

          Maybe a round into the ground would drive the dog away without harming it.

          • cowboybob

            44mag to the head settles the matter once and for all.

      • Diane Truman

        YES- thank you for this info. I’m a small 65 year old lady with a small dog which has been attacked in my own yard by neighbor’s large Rott. My dog was leashed and walking with me. I see folks with large dogs unleashed in rural parks- I turn the other direction- but it makes me mad that I must do so out of fear. I too am licensed to carry firearm- will now start doing so.

  • Andy Wolf

    So pretty much, all the dogs that are worth having are on the dangerous breed list.

  • RetMSgt

    Officially this never happened, but…
    A lady out on the fringes of town, essentially in the hills, once had a whole bunch of dogs that ran loose. They terrorized anyone out for a stroll, or nearby neighbors out in their yards. The county’s Animal Control Officer rarely, if ever, came out this far. Dogs are dogs, and, as pack animals, the bigger the “pack” the braver they get. Anyway, a bunch of the locals said “Enough is enough” and took care of the problem themselves. Up they went, armed, and eliminated a few dogs. Haven’t had a problem since. Legal? Maybe, maybe not.
    Rural America is not the same as Urban America.

    • delbert chaudoin

      THANK GOD

      • David Everett

        Really? You insult someone and then thank God?

        • delbert chaudoin

          if thanking god we are not touchy feelie p.c. is an insult, so be it

        • StillStandingNow

          I get the dog fighting men. You are harming their cash cow. So the least you could do is use your gambling $ to make zoo-like enclosure. We don’t want your prized killers out any more than you do, is create a zoo-like enclosure with some of your. Winnimg$….but if they become a threat to humans, locals will take the identical action they take, even if the dangerous dog belongs to the guy who is shooting. It goes 1) human safety, 2) livestock safety, 3) wolves and feral dogs.

    • StillStandingNow

      So true. Visiting someone in a rural area, there was a 911 emergency for police when one of the neighbors appeared to be suicidal. 35 minutes later two officers arrived in an SUV and lumbar out of thes SUV still puffing on cigarettes. Out there you are largely on your own. Do what you must. One wise position most rural folks understand is not letting animals be thought of like humans. Safety of all supersedes the perceived rights of a dangerous animal, dog or hog.

    • cowboybob

      It is legal, gun men who feel they are endangered by an animal, can fire away. That is the legal opinion of Cowboybob. 44Mag with 240 g bullet will crack the skull of a pit bull, from my experience. I prefer a 30-06 220 g , works fines.

  • Ed Yost

    I have been attacked by big dogs, and chased on my bicycle, nipping at my heels. If you actually want to be able to defend yourself against a dog attack, then prepare for it the same way you would any other attacker, with one caveat; if you shoot it, you will suffer more than by being bitten.

    If you use aggressive non-lethal force to defend yourself, the dog will likely run away. How do you prepare? Find a friend that has a boxer that likes to play rough. Or get one yourself and practice catching that beast in mid-leap and tossing it to the side. The boxer will love the play and you’ll get over the initial fear of dog attack, which in itself will insulate you from many attacks because dogs can sense your fear or confidence. Most will back off if you just stomp aggressively in their direction. Practice with boxer often as they need the attention, learn from dog trainer how to convince dog you are the only one the boxer gets to play rough with.

    As to an actual attacking dog, try to scare it away first, if it is running full tilt at you, stand your ground, wait until it leaps and catch it by front paws, ears, or scruff on either side of head under ears behind mouth, and wrench your whole body to the side, throwing the dog as hard to the ground as you can.

    A dog bite is not the end of the world, IMO, it is even preferable that you proffer your shin, or boot to be bitten (ie kick at it’s mouth or block attack with with lifted shin) than for your throat, hand, or cojones be chewed on, and you get the added bonus of proof the dog deserved the damage you may inflict on dog while defending yourself. Now, granted it is easy for me to say as I have battled dogs, I have trained both in Karate (good with my feet), and I have played with a boxer just as I have described, practicing my throws.

    If a dog gets teeth dug in and won’t let go. I suggest you force feed it, what ever he is biting on, if you can take the pain (not good if throat or cojones), as this tends to make them back off and confuses their poor doggy minds. If you can’t take the pain of grabbing the dog’s head and shoving your fist, leg, etc down doggy throat, then eye and ear gouging are always available as well as the old choke hold. I do fear the day, a Canine is launched against me. For surely the dog’s cop partner will shoot or beat me mercilessly. If the dog might be a Canine, i suggest you be very still and limp. Let the dog chew on you. The more you resist, the more damage the cops, human or dog, will inflict on you. All else fails, you might get to sue owner/PD. If you shoot the dog, you will have to defend yourself for months in court.

    • lunatic fringe

      Really?…Catch a 70-100# dog and throw it away?…I was a dog handler in army…you sir would have been dead in 30 seconds….

      • Andrew C

        There’s a big difference between fighting off an aggressive dog and fighting off a trained attack dog who was commanded to attack you. An aggressive dog is trying to assert its dominance over you and will usually back off if you show you’re not scared of it and assert your own dominance. Dogs are pack animals and do not want to attack something alone that can hurt them. A trained attack dog believes it’s playing a game and aggression has absolutely nothing to do with it. There’s nothing you can do to stop that dog.

      • Ed Yost

        Martial arts do work on dogs too, most people just panic and run, you can’t defend yourself while running Just because you were a dog handler means nothing, have you had any experience of someone actually defending themselves against attack? I have fought off an attacking doberman, chow, rottweiler and a german shepherd. Dogs don’t like steel toed boots to their ribs or jaws. I am very aggressive and not afraid of dogs, I go into kill mode. Dogs seem to sense my aggression towards them, probably why I’ve been attacked so many times.

        • William Campbell

          Tell ’em Ed. They do not like a knife in the forehead either. These rednecks think their little eighty pound puppies are killing machines. Dogs, trained or not, can be killed easier than the fool that trained them.

      • William Campbell

        I would, as I have done in the past, fuck your dog up in a heartbeat I don’t give a shit how bad ass and trained you think it is sir yes SIR! HAHAHA

      • StillStandingNow

        I envisioned exactly what you said. Thanks for setting that straight. You may have saved a few people from having their throats shredded.

    • delbert chaudoin

      and finish with a BANG

    • Shawn O’Loughlin

      Ed, you go ahead and fight a dog that’s flying at you. I myself will shoot the damned thing before it’s in the air. …but I’m sure there are plenty of frail older people and some that are physically incapable of fighting a person or animal that would agree with you. “It’s just a dangerous animal that’s trying to hurt or kill you, grandma, man up and catch it mid-air, karate style. Ed Yost says it’s real easy.”

      • William Campbell

        I’m with you too Shawn. Shooting them is so much easier than struggling with them.

      • StillStandingNow

        SOO funny!!!!! C’mon grandma! Man up! Good point Shawn.

    • Col Ben

      Thanks for your ideas Ed. I received an email from Mike in Chicago with some similar thoughts. He said like I said #1–AVOID if possible and he added #2–NOT RUN if dog is charging because that is a cue to it to keep charging. Also he said to say in a loud command voice “Stop” or “No” and most dogs will. Food for thought and, of course, situational and dog dependent. Continued success!

    • niccolo

      That is the most unreasonable and idiotic post on this page. Nobody should be required to be a dog psychologist or even have an understanding of dogs. Humans are not required to know anything about dogs. If any human feels threatened by a growling large dog and if they have fire power or any form weapon they should kill the damn dog. It is the responsibility of a dog owner not to bring such animal in any public area, period. Not the responsibility of the general population to study dog psychology, fuck that.

  • Sharon McKenzie

    There are several inaccuracies here that need to be addressed, one of them regarding body language of a dog. “Pulled back” ears, flattened against the head, and showing the whites of the eyes, are NOT a sign of aggression, but a sign of fear and submission. If cornered and left with no recourse, a scared dog could certainly bite out of fear, but this is not a dog that’s going out of its way to cross a distance and attack anyone. A truly aggressive dog, one which intends to inflict bodily harm, with have its ears perked up as much as possible, often with the forehead furrowed, and maintain direct eye contact. I’ve owned, bred and trained dogs for well over 30 years now, mostly of working breeds, and it is vital to understand and “read” canine body language. The too-often heard statement, “he had never shown aggression before”, when a dog seemingly “out of the blue” bites or attacks someone, is due to the humans involved failing to pick up on those visual cues to the dog’s escalating aggressive behavior and misinterpret those cues as something benign. One of the strongest cues to a dog’s aggression is its tail, which the article completely omitted. A wagging tail does NOT always indicated a friendly dog! In fact, a tail held high and wagging can often signal dominant aggressive behavior and a dog which is confident in its ability to take you out.
    Now, onto the issue of breed. Countless studies have proved that people in general, and people under duress especially(and a person who feels threatened would certain fit that category) are notoriously unreliable when it comes to identifying a dog’s breed/type and tend to make inaccurate judgements. Without have a given dog’s registration papers and pedigree on hand, it really is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to accurately identify the breed of most dogs. The term “pit bull” does not apply to just one breed, but to several other breeds and an infinite number of mixes, many of which have no American Pit Bull Terrier genes whatsoever. I have literally seen every type of dog from Jack Russell Terriers to a nearly 200-pound Johnson line American Bulldog, along with Walker Coonhounds, Plott Hounds and even a Chihuahua mix labeled as “pit bulls” after they were involved in a bite or attack incident. Unfortunately, such stereotyping of dogs by their appearance alone, based on someone’s often-inaccurate and subjective notion of what “breed x” looks like, can and does result in non-threatening dogs being shot by both civilians and law enforcement alike, and in the case of civilian gun owners and carriers, this can and will have serious negative impacts on local gun laws. I would encourage all CWP holders to educate yourself on dog behavior and learn to recognize the REAL signs of an imminent attack, and STOP looking at breed or appearance of dog, since this leads to two erroneous conclusions: one, that if a dog is of a certain perceived “breed”, it’s automatically a threat, and two, if a dog is NOT of one of those perceived “dangerous” breeds, it’s harmless. I was taught in both my state’s and the Utah Non-Resident CWP class to look for body language and behaviors that seem “out of place” in potential HUMAN aggressors, not for race or gender, when “profiling” someone who might possibly mean to harm you, and to always be acutely aware of your surroundings, and the same should apply to aggressive dogs.

    • 10horses

      Agree about the list of breeds but not necessarily about the reading of body language. All animals are individuals and can have varying “signs” they use to communicate with others of their species. These generally remain the same when dealing with animals of different species and, as far as the dog is concerned, man is just another animal. Best to just be aware, know your strengths and limitations and act accordingly. One last suggestion, if you have to walk, ride a bike, or otherwise be exposed to viscious dogs walk with a weighted cane. Learn how to use it and put a lanyard on the grip end so as not to “throw it away accidentally” when in use to defend yourself.

    • Col Ben

      Thank you for your opinions Ms. McKenzie. I respect them. “Inaccuracies” are in the eye of the beholder. The exact identification of most, if not all, crossbred, purebred, and breeds of dogs is very difficult, involves several factors, and is very subjective. Even experts disagree on the breed of a particular dog. So that is why I presented what I found as a GENERAL reporting, as I stated. Many dog breeders and dog aficionados have their own strong opinions and different ideas about breeds, signs of aggression, and dangerous dogs. One government study I am aware of by veterinarian Dr. J.J. Sacks et al with the CDC completed a valid and reliable study about Fatal Human Attacks Resulting in Deaths by Breeds of Dogs in the U.S. The study concluded from the 238 human deaths in many states that two breeds were involved in 60% of human deaths and they were Rottweilers and Pit Bull-type dogs. The definition of Pit Bull-type dogs is vast. The study concluded that German Shepherd and Husky-type dogs were also in the top 8 dangerous dogs. Again, subjective but there does seem to be consistency in the validated research literature (rather than just subjective opinions) for this. My intent was purely to present an open-minded, interesting topic for thoughtful concealed carry and encounter planning, reading and discussion,
      without imposing or insisting on my opinions one way or another. So hope we can continue this as a rational discussion without pointing the finger at anyone and saying they are inaccurate in their ideas, opinions, and insisting on the ONE correct my-way ideas and approach. Seems sometimes all of us don’t recognize what we don’t know, behave in a way that makes sense to ourselves, given our personal delimited experiences, and insist that we are right and the other is
      wrong. When, in reality, we are each entitled to our own opinions without putting the other person down and placing value judgments on others and their ideas. Continued success!

      • Sharon McKenzie

        Since issuing its original report on dog bite fatalities, the CDC has issued a disclaimer, posted on their webiste, which includes the statement to the effect that is extremely difficult to identify the breed of an attacking dog and that the difficulties inherent in trying to do so result in skewed “statistics”. The CDC, as a result of that finding, no longer collects data on dog “breed” or type. The general public has been so mislead by the media-in much the same way that they on the issue of guns-to believe that “pit bulls” are the only culprits in dog attacks that even when a story does not mention the breed/type of dog, nor shows its picture, if you read the comments below you will see that the majority of people automatically jump to the conclusion that the dog was a “pit bull”, in pretty much the same way that whenever the news reports on a shooter, especially a so-called “mass shooter”, the public assumes that an infamous “assault rifle” was used. The media downplays violent crimes involving non-firearm weapons, IF they mention those at all, while any crime involving a firearm hits the front pages on every site. The exact same phenomenon is observed whenever there is a dog bite or attack. If there’s no way that the dog involved could be called a “pit bull”, then the story usually will not mention the dog’s alleged breed at all, or show its photo, and even when they do, the keyboard “experts” come out of the woodwork to proclaim that the dog STILL had to have been a “pit bull” or the even more ubiquitous “pit bull cross” because only those dogs hurt people, just as only guns hurt people in violent crimes, something we both know is a lie!

        Conclusions
        —Although fatal attacks on humans
        appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type
        dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and
        cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties
        inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty,
        enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises con-
        stitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent
        a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and,
        therefore, should not be the primary factor driving
        public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practi-
        cal alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and
        hold promise for prevention of dog bites. (
        J Am Vet
        Med Assoc
        2000;217:
        Conclusions
        —Although fatal attacks on humans
        appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type
        dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and
        cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties
        inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty,
        enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises con-
        stitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent
        a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and,
        therefore, should not be the primary factor driving
        public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practi-
        cal alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and
        hold promise for prevention of dog bites. (
        J Am Vet
        Med Assoc
        2000;217:836–840)

        • Col Ben

          Thank you for affirming my general conclusions. Continued success!

  • cjsays

    I live in metro Detroit, MI and we have had a coupe of high profile dog cases a few months back. In one case a jogger was attacked and killed two Bullmastiffs that had attacked a person before and where know to get out. The owner’s of those dogs have gone to trial and were convicted in addition to being exported from the country because they are not citizen’s. In the seccond case, a man was walking down the street and was attacted by several pit bulls. This individual lost limbs form the bites he received. The person who was minding the dogs may not face any charges becasue they could not prove that he owned the dogs or that he showed intent to harm. Personally, I am going to do what it takes to SAVE MY LIFE and keep me alive. I recently purchase a bicycle and am riding around town. Those big ole dogs behind those fenses and roaming the streets can be scary. I was surprised that in the book What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know: A guide for Bicyclists that they suggest in the section dealing with dogs among other things to carry pepper spray. Big or small, we need to remember that these are still animals; subject to do what animals do.

    • Col Ben

      A VA reader just sent me a dog-related incident and I want to share it and the related tragic events with you. This couple lives in the rural area of VA with their two dogs and sell eggs at their farm. A lady came to their farm to buy eggs and the couple’s two dogs ran toward the lady and one dog bit her and tore her pants. The lady told them everything would be fine, if they would just pay her doctor’s bills and buy her a new pair of pants. They did not get a release. The farm couple did as the lady requested, but the lady’s son happened to be a lawyer and sued the couple and reported the incident to the County Animal Control Department. The farmer said he was arrested for owning a biting dog, had to post $700 bond, and go to court. He said the judge told him to kill both dogs and he said he would with the presence of an Animal Control officer. He said the lady from Animal Control arrived to observe me shoot the dog with my .22 rifle. He sadly described how he tied the dog to the fence and shot it behind the ear into the brain. But it was paralyzed and almost dead and was told to shoot it again. He said he fired 6 more shots and I could tell from his tone that he was very depressed. Further, he said a Sheriff’s Deputy showed up shortly with an arrest warrant for him for displaying cruelty to an animal and he had to post bond and go to court. He was relieved when the judge dismissed his case and warned the lady officer about harassment. This man suffered much cost, time, pain, and anxiety over this dog incident. While I don’t have more details about this incident other than what the farmer provided, it certainly brings up many considerations, possible complications, and highlights the hassles for all involved for a dog bite incident. Something to think about and try to avoid this type of incident.

  • jar1807

    Great job and topic, Colonel. I’m a dog lover who believes (I’m not 100% certain) who would take more time to decide to shoot a dangerous dog than I would a dangerous person. That said, in my youth I was bitten by a German Shepherd and was so traumatized I continue to have dog bite nightmares many decades later. Too bad when it comes to guns, many, many laws in many, many States are unclear. That’s most likely true for all laws which is why we have so many lawyers making big money in this country. Maybe carry something in addition to a gun that will stop or ward off a dog attack. 1911s, Nines etc. are best for stopping man attacks.

    • Col Ben

      A reader Steve writes with his idea and his bit of advice to dog owners about posting signs. “If you post a sign such as “Beware of dog!”, you have just admitted that you have a dangerous
      dog and you are aware that you have a dangerous dog. After posting a “Beware of dog!” sign, and your dog just attacked someone, it would be very difficult for you to claim the “one bite rule” or even try to convince someone that you had no idea that your 125 lb rottweiller would attack anyone. So, if your big ole rottweiler attacks someone and you have a “Beware of dog!” sign……..take it down quick!”

      What are your ideas about “Beware of Dog” signs and posting them?

  • delbert chaudoin

    if he is free and heading my way, under the circumstances described,there is only one reasonable response. BANG

  • rockinrobbin

    This was a great article, and the follow up comments were very good. It is good to think about these types of situations before they are encountered, and develop a plan / plans in how you would respond. I have had to deal with this kind of situation many times. It is a common theme at dog parks, and also I live in a very rural setting, so when walking, I often encounter other dogs, bears, raccoons, coyotes, and even even on occasion, cougers. Besides carrying a firearm, a knife (or two), and a Flashlight, as my EDC, depending on the situation, I also carry, a small air horn, mace, and sometimes a hand held taser, all are completely legal in Oregon (you should check your local laws) The air horn has been used the most, and has been extremely effective dealing with aggressive dogs and other wildlife.

  • Chris

    Interesting article. I have shown and bred German Shepherds and shown Rotties. Yes, you can get very aggressive Rotties depending on how they were raised combined with a natural stubbornness. As for German Shepherds, I rarely encountered nasty ones. Some overbreeding a while back created timid ones which would bite out of fear but not aggressive. Plus there are so many other breeds that can be difficult to deal with not mentioned. Cane Corsos, Chows, and many little known breeds. Dobes got a bad rep from the “rage” gene passed on through a very popular breeding line years ago. The rage gene also signaled the demise of cocker spaniels but attack cockers didn’t get a lot of press. For the most part Dobes are gentle dogs. Whoever added Siberian Huskies to the list is way off. After years of dogs shows I was bit twice: Both times by passing Schnauzers. I guess they don’t like me.

  • tionico

    Generally good stuff here. In Washington State, there are laws regarding vicious dogs… if the dog has shown aggression in the past, and there is a record of it, animal control can warn the owner. If it is often seen off the property and being aggressive, same thing. Once the dog is KNOWN to have drawn blood, the owner is put on legal notice… if the dig is EVER seen off your property, or EVER draws blood again, YOU will face felony charges and the dog WILL be instantly seized and put down. Now, YOU decide how important those dogs are, and how well you will restrain them. I learned all this after being chased by a pair of nuisance dogs. I received the first bite on record… as I returned from my ride, 35 miles later, I noticed the dog guy’s van at that house. I never saw the dogs again. The owner decided losing the two dogs was a better fate than facing jail time and then losing the dogs. She KNEW they were aggressive, that she had NO FENCE (duhhhh???) and that they had harrassed any number of walkers, joggers, etc.

    I can outride most dogs that chase me… I often have a headstart, as they hear me and then come running down the drive, hop the fence or whatever. I hear the dog’s low gutteral grown, feet on the ground running, and sprint.. OH do I sprint. VERY few dogs will persue more than twentybyards or so, but Ive had a few large fast ones try and catch me for a hundred yards. By then I’m usually moving at close to thirty, and few dogs can hit this speed, or sustain for long. I report every one of these incidents. They are getting fewer as aniumal control do their work, and owners get the message. My biggest fear in a dog attack is not the bite… it may get infected, but if I’m moving they can rarely do much real damage. My fear is getting jumped and knocked down while riding.. the initial fall will be dangerous, but the immediatly followng attach when I’m down could easily be fatal, and that comeing while I am still dealing with the effects of the fall. I do carry, and can draw and shoot one handed while riding (yes, I do carry a mouse gun, but anything bigger is a real uisance… but aiming almost straight down onto a lerge dog’s head, even a mouse gun would hurt.
    Off the bike, I carry a real gun, and would not hesitate to use it privided I actually believed my life was in real danfer from the dog. The law does not specify WHAT can pose the immediate and proximal threat of death or serious bodily injury, nor does it require I PROVE what WILL happen if I don’t fire. It only matters aht an average person would reasonably conclude were that person facing what I faced at the time and place. If I think that large dog, head tucked low and charging, growing, teeth bared, staring straight at me, gaining ground rapidly, is intent upon harming me instead of licking me to death, I WILL shoot I will likely turn and face him, boldly say NO, GO HOME, STOP, with authority… aid if no response, send him a littlehalf inch or thereabouts message at very high speed.
    I have, on many occasions, been able to de-escalate what, for a time, appears to be a violent attack… but so far I’ve been able to determine the critter was in the early stages of “negotiating” who is boss… and my my showing myself friendly, speaking calmly, with authority not demonstrating fear, turning and running, etc, he gets the idea I am no threat. But I have met some dogs who come flying out of the blocks hell bent for leather and CLEARLY intent on doing me great bodlly harm Somehow some dogs have been “programmed” to have a HHUGE chip on their shoulders for bicyclists. They hear that chain rattling on the lower rollers and persue…. thankfully I can out run them… so far. The one that DID bite me came from UP the hill,, straight down onto me as I was climbing it… nowhere to go, I could not spring INTO them (two, same size and colourI never did know which one bit me, so the dog guy took them both) Dogs CAN be a lethal threat… and it seems they can be more dangerous to a guy on a bike. I hoe it never comes down to mouse against dog… but if it does, I won’t hesistate.

  • mule man

    I’ll take my chances –doggy down,owner go to hell

  • Daniel

    Which state is CN? Do you mean CT (Connecticut)?

    • Col Ben

      So sorry. Meant CT for Connecticut.

  • Andrew C

    I would not shoot a dog unless I was absolutely certain it had intent to harm. My German shepherd would never hurt anything, she’s even cornered rabbits, and intentionally ran around behind them so she could keep chasing them. However, when someone enters my property, she will bark and growl at them, and if she’s loose, even charge at them. She looks vicious and sounds vicious, but the instant she gets within “attack” range, she stops baking and growling, and jumps up so she can lick their face and stick her nose in their mouth. She’s really the perfect guard dog, because she’s scary enough to scare someone away, but she’s actually the friendliest dog ever. Anyway, my whole point with this is that most dogs are all bark and no bite. Unfortunately, most people are not willing to find out first, but think of it this way, if you saw and intimidating looking man screaming and yelling, flailing his arms while running at you, he would look menacing, wouldn’t he? Would you pull your gun out and shoot him before he got to you? What if he was actually in shock from an accident and trying to get your help? I would definitely have my gun ready when I see the dog charging (as you would in the case of the menacing guy) but I would make certain the dog was attacking before I pull the trigger. If that means I have to get bit on the arm first, then so be it.

    • TFS

      “Anyway, my whole point with this is that most dogs are all bark and no bite. Unfortunately, most people are not willing to find out first, but think of it this way, if you saw and intimidating looking man screaming and yelling, flailing his arms while running at you, he would look menacing, wouldn’t he? Would you pull your gun out and shoot him before he got to you? ”

      If the man had a weapon that could harm or kill me like your dog’s teeth, Yes I would defind myself .

  • Vernon Owens

    So if you don’t have a ccw it’s unlowful to protect your self against the dog you just got to be another statistic

  • Guest

    This is a great article. And good things to know about. I’ve know about this info from what I did for over 20 years. I use to work on printed circuit borads and lead solder was used most of the time. We were trained to always wash our hands before we would eat or drink anything. And as for shooting and reloading ammo I do the same things as well. I wash my hands when I’m done shooting every time. And I also wash my hands before I eat or drink anything while I’m reloading ammo. I even do it after I finish cleaning my firearms as well. I was also told to make sure to wash with only cold water when I did wash my hands. And that was to keep the pours closed and that way you would have a better cleaning of your hands and the lead would not be able to get into your pours of skin. And it is something that everyone should be doing when they’re dealing with any lead based stuff.

  • ken

    if attacked , lower your body, extend your pistol and when the dog bites it, BANG.
    The dog will leave residue on the pistol as proof you were attacked

  • cowboybob

    you can shoot a human if you believe that you are endangered, so shoot the damn dog.

  • Tyler Casco

    I got a morkie( multis and yorkie) that has floppy ears and is by no means muscular that came jogging at a lady with her dog in my neighbors yard, I tried to stop him but he got kind of close and the lady starts screaming at me and my dog threatening to spray it with what I can only assume is pepper spray, saying that it is illegal to have my dog not in a leash. it was in my community, not a public place. Does she have the right to do this? (I live in Florida)

  • Tracy Dawes

    I’m being …I’m being prosecuted in the state of Kentucky for assault in the 1st degree after a woman has her German Shepherd attack me and then she grabbed my hair and would not let me go until a neighbor finally got her to let me go. I’m also been charged with burglary and PFO 1 , which I have out since 2007 &.been off paper since 2012 and this happen 2015. All I did was go to the woman’s apt . To get dog shot records from her since her dog attacked my friends dog (sm. Spits) the dog before. Their wanting to give me anywhere from 5- 10 years but I’m facing 20 to life. This is unbelievable when I love dogs but when a full size German shepherd is coming at you , growling ,snapping and big old fangs showing . First reaction was to hit the dog in the nose . Which dog did yelp and went the other way but then the owner grabbed my hair and wouldn’t let go. All I knew to do was defend myself by trying to get her to let go while still fearing the dog might attack again. She went to the hospital after the cops came but I left as soon as a neighbor got her to let me go. Scared to death and wanted to just get the hell out of there. I did have marks on my hand & arm from the dog and scratch marks on my face and missing a gob of hair from her putting a Hugh rats nest in my hair from her grabbing it and not letting go. Not to mention she was screaming at the top of her lungs for 10- 15 mins during this time . I was arrested couple 2-3 was later

  • cowboybob

    You are not an attorney that is writing about legal matters. If you fear for your life or limb , you can shoot a human in self defense. Look at the cases where police shoot people and dogs. Domestic animals, such as a dog, do not have more protection than a human. California protects people from being punished if they kill another person while protecting themselves, but only if violence is the sole way to avoid:
    Being killed
    Suffering great bodily injury
    If you commit a murder because you truly feared that someone was going to take your life then you are protected by the state’s self-defense laws. This defense only works though if there were not any options to escape and your only way to stay alive or avoid great bodily injury is to kill your attacker.

    • ec

      If you REASONABLY fear for your life or limb. That’s different from just “fear.”

      • cowboybob

        reasonably is the standard for civilians, not peace officers.

        • Yeah, LEO’s say they’re scared, boom the person is dead.

  • Patrick Volesky

    The bottom line is that shooting a dog must only be done as a last resort. I
    would follow the same lethal force standards used to justify
    human-human defense for a given state. My home state of
    Minnesota, requires that I fear imminent grave bodily harm, no lesser
    force will do, unwilling participation, and no means of retreat, for myself
    or someone who I am coming to the aid of. It goes without
    saying that there are large and giant breed dogs that can inflict life
    threatening injuries (even some medium breeds). It’s also
    very unlikely you can escape (outrun) anything but the smallest of
    dogs. If you are teasing, abusing, or harassing the dog prior to the
    shooting, you are not an unwilling participant. Same goes for going
    into its yard, or even a dog park where you can anticipate an encounter.
    The trickiest standard is no other force will do. If I, a 240lb
    man, am being charged by a 20 lb. dog, then I doubt I can justify grave harm
    but I’d also like to think I could fend it off without killing it; lesser
    force being a boot to its chest. A 130 lb. pit bull (only used as
    it fits a weight class to fit my point) running at a top speed around 40
    mph can deliver an equivalent force as a 250 lb. person at a dead sprint (20
    mph), it would knock me on my ass! There-in lies a disparity of
    force that would require someone to use deadly force. Even if
    totally justified, you may still get arrested and/or cited. You may
    also face civil and criminal litigation. In my opinion, that is still
    preferable to having my throat torn out.

  • Chaz Diesel

    You may also want to process if firing that weapon is going to end with you catching lead from the owner watching the situation from afar.

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